India's parliament Monday passed a law making it optional for tobacco companies to introduce prominent health warnings on cigarette packets, a health ministry official said.
The bill, passed by the lower house last week, received the go-ahead from the upper house Monday, the official said.
It allows tobacco manufacturers to decide what style of warning is printed on packets -- far short of a demand by the country's health minister for the mandatory use of the skull and crossbones symbol.
A 2003 anti-smoking law also bans mass media advertising of tobacco products, except at sales points. However, the fine for offenders is a meagre 200 rupees (five US dollars).
According to India's health ministry, 40 percent of the country's health problems are due to tobacco, with one million deaths recorded annually as a result of tobacco-related illnesses.