Following the controversy kicked up by BJP MP Shyam Charan Gupta’s remarks suggesting “nil” effect of tobacco, former Union health minister Anbumani Ramadoss, who introduced the pictorial warnings on tobacco products during his tenure, said the government should increase the size of the warnings to at least 80 per cent of the display, as opposed to the 40 per cent space stipulated to it now.
Reminding that the tobacco lobby is very strong in India, Ramadoss said despite a strong opposition from more than 120 MPs, he introduced the warnings during his tenure. The controversy first broke out Thursday after BJP’s Gupta said he can produce a lot of people who are chain smokers of beedi and they have had no disease or cancer till date. “You get diabetes due to eating sugar, rice, potatoes. Why don’t you write warnings for all these things as well?” said Gupta, who is also a parliamentary committee member. Another BJP MP and chairman of a parliamentary panel Dilip Gandhi had said there were no proven studies in India to link cancer to tobacco use.
Calling these remarks ignorant and foolish utterances, Ramadoss said the government and the Health Ministry should come forward to put a stop to such unscientific utterances and bring the notification for the warnings immediately. “Importance should be given to implementing this measures fully. It is high time for the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene in the issue,” he said.
Ramadoss said the latest stand taken by the Health Ministry has created a public perception that there might be a collusion between health ministry and tobacco lobby.
“When I was the Health Minister, I brought in 40% pictorial warning amidst stiff opposition. We were bold enough to bring the notification for general public. This is a public health issue. It’s the responsibility of the government to bring out this notification,” he said. He added that he too was a victim of tobacco lobby.
“They spent huge money to defeat us in elections when I had brought in this notification. Most of the beedi industry is owned by politicians. And there is a very strong nexus. Tobacco lobby is strongest in the world under the guise of employment,” he said.