The Indian government has accepted a proposal by an expert panel to ban the sale of loose cigarettes in an attempt to discourage smoking in the country, local media reports said Tuesday. The panel’s recommendations would only be implemented after the parliament gives its approval.
The panel, which was formed by the health ministry, also proposed to raise the minimum legal age for consuming tobacco products and increase fines for some violations, health minister Jagat Prakash Nadda said, in a statement, according to The Times of India, a local newspaper. The present legal age for tobacco consumption in India is 18 years and the panel has suggested increasing it to 25 years.
Nearly 70 percent of cigarette sales in the country are of loose cigarettes -- individual sticks not sold in a pack -- NDTV, a local news network, reported citing analysts who also noted that the implementation of the proposals could bring down cigarette sales by about 20 percent.
However, it would be very difficult to implement the proposed regulations as the government would have to regulate nearly 8 million outlets across the nation, according to Sagarika Mukherjee, a research analyst, who was quoted by Money Control, a local news site.
After the announcement, stocks fell on local exchanges, which had climbed to record highs earlier in the day as markets feared a negative impact on tobacco companies. ITC Ltd., a conglomerate with stakes in tobacco, contributed the most to the fall on the NSE, a benchmark index, crashing 5.2 percent in its steepest decline since June 23, Reuters reported.