The government is mulling a Rs 20,000 fine for individuals caught smoking cigarettes in public, a 1000 percent increase over the existing Rs 200 fine. In addition, it has also been recommended that loose cigarettes should not be shown, and cigarette making companies will have to carry pictures with warning on cigarette packs.
Its believed that the legislation will be passed in the winter session of parliament.
Since assuming his office, Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has taken a strong anti-tobacco stand. Following his recommendations, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley increased the specific excise duty on cigarettes in the range of 11-72 percent. Likewise, the excise duty is being increased from 12 percent to 16 percent on pan masala, from 50 percent to 55 percent on unmanufactured tobacco and from 60 percent to 70 percent on gutka and chewing tobacco.
India is one of the cheapest places to buy cigarettes. A pack of medium-sized cigarettes cost around $3 while the same packet costs around $5 in the US, $13 in the UK, $9.5 in France and is just as high in most developed countries that have cracked down on smoking.
Cigarette smoking kills nearly one million people each other, which is nearly 20 percent of the total deaths in India. This makes tobacco the leading cause of preventable deaths among the youth.
Cigarette smokers constitute just 3 percent of the total smokers in India. Most Indians smoke either beedis or use smokeless tobacco which is far cheaper. Selling cigarettes loose is one of reasons why children get addicted to smoking, as they are cheaper to buy than an entire pack.