India cigarettes: Court upholds tough rules on packaging

In this picture taken May 31 2007, An Indian man smokes a 'bidi?, a leaf hand-rolled with tobacco in New Delhi. I Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Smoking kills nearly a million people every year in India

India's Supreme Court has upheld new federal rules which require tobacco firms to put bigger pictorial health warnings on cigarette packets.

The court rejected the tobacco industry's arguments that the rules were impractical to implement.

The government wants tobacco firms to cover 80% of a cigarette pack's surface with pictorial warnings, up from 20%.

India has about 110 million smokers and the government says smoking kills nearly a million people every year.

The government opposed the tobacco industry's demands that the court should stay the implementation of the new rules, which came into effect from 1 April.

The court also ordered that similar petitions from smaller manufacturers of tobacco products would be heard by a court in the southern state of Karnataka.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tobacco firms currently cover only 20% of the surface of a cigarette packet

Ranjit Kumar, solicitor general of India, told the court that the government was committed to the new rules.

The government believes that bigger pictorial warning will deter people from taking up smoking.

In recent years, India has come up with stringent rules to curb the use of tobacco.

Tobacco-related advertisements are banned and the sale of tobacco products to minors is also an offence.

A countrywide ban on smoking in public places came into effect in 2008 - although correspondents say it is blatantly flouted and poorly enforced.

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