NEW DELHI – India's Supreme Court on Wednesday told the tobacco industry to adhere to rules requiring stringent health warnings on cigarette packs, but ordered a state high court to hear all pleas challenging the same.
The tobacco industry "should not violate any rule prevailing as of today," the two-judge bench said, and added that the Karnataka high court should hear all pleas challenging the new rules.
Last month, Indian tobacco companies, some backed by foreign "Big Tobacco," shut down production in protest against requirements that 85 percent of a cigarette pack's surface be covered in health warnings, up from 20 percent.
The tobacco industry has taken the government to court, saying the rules are impractical and will boost smuggling of imported cigarettes. The government backs the stringent rules to cut tobacco consumption.
Smoking kills more than 1 million people a year in India, according to BMJ Global Health. The World Health Organization says tobacco-related diseases cost India $16 billion annually.