Centre urged not to go ahead with the proposed legislation on cigarettes, other tobacco products
Upset over ‘excessive regulation’ and high taxes on cigarette, farmers in the traditional tobacco growing areas in Prakasam district have urged the Union and State governments to address the problem of illegal trade flourishing in the country.
A delegation of farmers urged State Environment Minister Balineni Srinivasa Reddy to use his good offices with the Centre not to go ahead with enactment of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) (Amendment) Bill, 2020 as livelihood of over 45.7million people depend upon the sector was at stake. The proposed legislation came at a time when the growers were grappling with unseasonal rains and COVID-19 casting its shadow on the market.
The bill drafted to curb smoking was ‘draconian’ in nature at a time when the country already had stringent regulations which aided illegal tobacco trade, said Tobacco Board vice-chairman G. Konda Reddy.
The proposed legislation aimed at increasing the smokers age from 18 to 21 years, ban sale of free cigarettes, get rid of smoking rooms in airports and eateries and enhance penalties for flouting public smoking guidelines.
Voicing their concern over regulatory overreach, Southern Black Soil Farmers’ Welfare Association president Pothula Narasimha Rao said India was now a safe haven for illicit tobacco trade. The country was fourth largest illicit market for cigarettes in the world and the menace went unchecked.