New Delhi, Mar 20: A Parliamentary panel has recommended framing an "equitable and pragmatic" National Tobacco Control Policy so various organs of government can work in tandem and tobacco production can be brought under a regulatory regime.
"The committee feels that there is an urgent need for framing a 'National Tobacco Control Policy' with well defined objectives and goals so that all the organs of the government as well as other stakeholders function in tandem with each other in achieving the overall objectives under National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP)," the committee said.
It said there was a "need to bring the entire tobacco production in the country under some kind of regulatory regime so that the objectives under the NTCP can be achieved in a meaningful manner."
The Committee on Subordinate Legislation on Cigarette and other Tobacco Products (packaging and labelling) amendment (COTPA) rules 2014, chaired by Dilip Gandhi recently tabled its report in the Lok Sabha.
The committee strongly recommended that the National Tobacco Control Policy should be "equitable, pragmatic and implementable" and in line with the Indian scenario taking into account various factors like tobacco consumption pattern, agricultural employment, export potential and revenue generation.
The committee noted a lack of coordination among various government agencies in achieving the objectives of tobacco control.
"This is evident from the fact that whereas the Labour Ministry has viewed that the proposed amendments in the cigarettes and tobacco products packaging and labelling rules is likely to have an adverse impact on the livelihood of crores of people engaged in tobacco trade and the issue needs thorough examination, the Commerce Ministry has viewed that it may lead to increase in illicit trade of cigarettes besides adversely affecting local growers and manufacturers of tobacco products and loss to government revenues," it noted.
The committee said the Agriculture Ministry has pointed out that no single crop is as remunerative as tobacco and it is very difficult to persuade its growers to switch over to alternative crops.
In addition, the Committee noted that approximately 800 million kg of tobacco is annually produced in the country out of which only 300 million kg which is 37 per cent (cigarette tobacco) is regulated by way of control by the Commerce Ministry, while the rest of the produce is unregulated.
"It is intriguing as to how such huge production of unregulated tobacco can be regulated by way of rules and regulations framed under the COTPA 2003 when the compliance and enforcement is extremely difficult," the committee noted.