Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss has lost the battle to make depiction of skull and cross-bones on all tobacco products mandatory with Cabinet on Friday declaring it would be optional.
The Cabinet decided to amend the Section 7(1) of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply & Distribution) Act 2003.
After the meeting, Information and Broadcasting Minister P R Dasmunsi said, "Some kind of warning will be there (on the packets)," but the depiction of skull and cross-bones in packaging of all tobacco products will be optional.
However, at the same time, Ramadoss insisted that there will be "no compromise" on the issue.
The minister, who was talking to reporters after attending the Cabinet meeting, admitted that he has faced pressure from MPs, chief ministers and ministers, but he will not 'backtrack.'
"A Group of Ministers (GoM) will be taking a decision on this matter. We will be soon meeting," said Ramadoss, who received the WHO Director-General's Special Award for taking several initiatives for tobacco control in the country.
The government set up the GoM following controversy over the issue of displaying skull and cross-bones and showing a photo of a dead person who smoked.
The health ministry had announced that all tobacco products should carry warnings, covering half of the package, especially bidi and it was to come into effect from June 1.
But due to immense pressure on the government from several MPs and political parties from states like Andhra Pradesh having large bidi industry, had opposed the move saying it will affect the industry, the decision was deferred.