tobacco shops India,
tobacco shops India,Reuters

The Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has seized cigarettes worth Rs. 300 crore for violating the pictorial health warning rules on packaging. The agency conducted raids across Mumbai, Pune and Nashik and seized the cigarettes from super stockists and distributors.

The new rules, effective April 1, require cigarette makers to place warning content consisting of picture and text on 85 percent of the display area of a cigarette packet. 

The cigarette and tobacco industry may lose an estimated Rs 3,500 crore in production turnover as of now, CNBC TV 18 reported, citing sources. 

The Maharashtra FDA last week seized cigarettes worth Rs. 273 crore from several parts of the state. The cigarette packs were found to have health warnings on only 45 percent of the display size, in violation of the central government directive, PTI reported. 

The Maharashtra drug regulator asked the cigarette companies to give an undertaking that they will follow the new norms within 90 days. 

Major tobacco companies including ITC Ltd, Godfrey Philips and VST Industries have announced to shut their factories, against what they term as the ambiguity over the government directive.

India's largest cigarette manufacturer ITC said it would not print large size health warnings, owing to a substantial waste in its resources, especially when the matter is pending before the court.

The issue of printing larger health warnings on the packets of the products, as directed by the government, is pending before the Karnataka High Court, which was approached by the Tobacco Institute of India (TII) challenging the government order. 

TII Director Syed Mahmood said the tobacco industry has written to the health ministry March 15, seeking clarification on the matter. 

The tobacco industry has received an unusual support from a government appointed panel led by BJP MP Dilip Gandhi, who said the new rules on health warnings are too extreme for tobacco farmers.