Moved by the plight of cigarette industry in these times of recession, the federal Indian government has chosen to defer the directive on pictorial warnings by at least six months.
Starting Dec. 1, manufacturers were to prominently display on the packs a skull-and-bones sign, a warning saying `tobacco and smoking kills' along with images meant to dissuade smokers.
But the powerful group of ministers (GoM) decided Monday to keep the move in abeyance till May 31 next year.
Apparently the rationale is that the government should not turn the knife in the wound of an industry already threatened by the worldwide recession.
But then this is the fifth time in two years that the omnibus directive is being relegated to the backburner, testifying to the clout of the cigarette industry.
Times of India speculated that the ruling Congress and its allies might also be wary of hurting the tobacco business at a time when general elections are not too far away.
The move to make pictorial warnings compulsory has been bitterly opposed by the tobacco lobby even though it is the norm in some western countries.
If the lobby has triumphed yet again, the decision should come as a disappointment to Health minister A Ramadoss who has been at loggerheads with his Cabinet colleagues. He has been insisting for long now on early implementation of the directive on pictorial warnings, but in vain, as it is turning out.