A Health Ministry proposal to ban sale of loose cigarettes is likely to be put on hold following objections by some MPs, including some Union ministers, and farmers associations against taking drastic regulatory steps.
At a meeting called by Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu, Health Minister JP Nadda assured the MPs that he would look into all issues pertaining to tobacco and arecanut growers and industry before taking any policy decision.
He convened the meeting after getting representations from tobacco-growing farmers associations in the two states on the likely adverse impact on their livelihood due to the proposed amendment to the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act.
Union Ministers, besides MPs from two major tobacco-producing states Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, including Ananth Kumar, Nirmala Sitharaman and Mohanbhai Kundaria, were present at the meeting where Nadda was told to address all concerns and to refrain from taking any hasty step.
Naidu, who also discussed the issue with Agriculture Minister Radhamohan Singh, said tobacco and arecanut are two important cash crops in the country and in many parts, the livelihood of farmers depend on them.
According to sources, the parliamentarians were of the view that without providing suitable alternatives to cash crops in tobacco and arecanut-growing areas, farmers should not be penalised by introducing drastic regulatory measures.
Naidu, who hails from Andhra Pradesh, said the proposed regulatory amendments will only result in shift in consumption from cigarettes to other cheaper tobacco products, like bidis and chewing tobaccos, without curtailing overall tobacco consumption.
Government sources said an inter-ministerial consensus over the issue is also unlikely to evolve soon.