New Delhi, Apr 24: Government on Friday expressed its commitment to increase the size of pictorial warnings on tobacco products even as it rebutted the controversial remarks by two BJP members of a parliamentary panel questioning if there is a link between smoking and cancer.
Seeking to deflect criticism for keeping on hold the decision on bigger pictorial warnings that was part of strategies to curb tobacco consumption, Health Minister J P Nadda told the Lok Sabha that the Government will see to it that the size of the health warnings are increased.
As the Opposition members attacked the government in the Lok Sabha over the statements of the two BJP members of the Parliamentary Committee of Subordinate Legislation, Nadda said there is a direct link between consumption of tobacco and cancer.
"There is a direct relation between the consumption of tobacco and cancer... The ministry is consistent and crystal clear in its efforts to reduce tobacco consumption. We will go ahead once the panel submits its report," Nadda said.
The statements of the two BJP members that there was no Indian study to link the use of tobacco with cancer had triggered a huge row.
Nadda also cited studies, including Indian, to buttress his point and rejecting the claims by the panel's head Dilip Gandhi and member Shyam Charan Gupta.
Government has put on hold its decision asking tobacco firms to introduce pictorial warnings covering 85 per cent of packaging for tobacco products from the present stipulated 40 per cent after the panel urged it to wait till it submits its final report.
The rule was to come into effect from April 1. "One of the strategies is to increase the pictorial warning. That has got a little procedural problem, which we are facing at this point of time. But in coming times, we will see to it," Nadda said.
However, Nadda did not say if his ministry continued to stick to the earlier decision about the size of warnings or was open to make some changes.
"But as the Committee gives its report, we are consistent on it as we have given it in our reply, we will go ahead. That is what we can assure," he said.
"We have told them very clearly that tobacco has got a direct connection with carcinogenic and has a direct connection with cancer," the Minister said.
He told the House that the government will also see to it that all international practices to reduce tobacco consumption are undertaken by the Ministry.
He said the government will treat imported cigarettes in the same manner and will also have same pictorial warning.
Expressing concern over the BJP MPs' claims, Supriya Sule (NCP) said her family had suffered from oral cancer, a reference to her father and party head Sharad Pawar who was treated for cancer.
K C Venugopal (Cong) said "we are ashamed of that statement" and sought to know when the government would notify the rules it has put on hold after the panel's interim report tabled in the House in March.