Tobacco retailers in Hyderabad join protest against pictorial warning

Hyderabad: Retailers selling paan, beedi, cigarette and other tobacco products in Hyderabad on Thursday joined the nationwide protest against 85 percent pictorial warning on tobacco products.

The retailers took to the streets, demanding the government to withdraw the new rule as it will have an adverse impact on their livelihood.

They staged the protest under the aegis of the Pan Shops Owners Association of India, which claim to represent more than 1.5 lakh traders, retailers and pan-wallas, selling tobacco products across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

The association demanded investigation into the motives behind the new rule, which it says goes totally out of the way in comparison to how the developed and the highest tobacco growing and tobacco consuming countries have handled the issue.

Retailers are unhappy as they are ‘being made the face and vehicle to deliver the horrific messages through products, which are the core of their bread and butter’.

“These horrifying pictures will have huge negative impact on our psyche and can possibly disturb our peace of mind and drive us to become mentally imbalance,” said Rangaraj Shankar Rao, president of the Pan Shops Owners Association of India.

“If the US, which is considered the epitome of health and democratic rights in the world, have found graphic health warnings unconstitutional, then what argument does India have to push large, shocking warnings of 85 percent on tobacco packs?

“In a country with huge socio economic role of tobacco, large pictorial warnings is uncalled for especially when the rules have been framed in undemocratic manner,” he said.

According to the association, 45.7 million people in India are dependent on the tobacco industry and they include farmers, labour, workers and traders.