With the government pushing for more regulation in the sale of tobacco items, the Federation of Retailer Association of India (FRAI) said the stringent norms will only make life difficult for the small ‘pan dabbawallahs’ and neighborhood Kirana shops and not lead to any reduction of tobacco consumption in the country.
Around 1,000 members of the body, that represents around four crore micro, small and medium retailers across the country, held demonstrations in the city protesting the proposed regulatory norms.
Last year, the Union health ministry had written to state governments asking municipal authorities to authorize tobacco shops and ensure they are exclusive tobacco shops and cannot sell other items such as toffees, biscuits, and bread under one roof. Besides, it also called for the restriction of advertising of tobacco products at the point of sale.
FRAI vice president Mohammad Salauddin pointed out that if the state government follows the prescribed norms, over four lakh retailers will lose their livelihoods.
“This will lead to intense harassment of poor retailers, who sell multiple products in one outlet, by the local authorities and a sharp increase in the cost of doing business and reduction of their incomes,” he said.
He pointed out that retailers who also sell tobacco in Telangana are already facing immense financial pressure because of extreme regulation of the tobacco industry. “We also feel that controls on advertising at the point of sale will remove differentiation between retailers selling legal tobacco products and fly-by-night retailers selling smuggled/illicit tobacco products. All put together, these measures will increase the cost of doing business and around 40% drop in their incomes,” he added.
FRAI representatives said that such regulations should be considered only after an extensive consultative process with all the stakeholders. “It seems that the officials are under pressure from foreign-funded NGOs who want to kill the unorganized retail sector, domestic tobacco industry and promote smuggled foreign tobacco and supermarkets,” the FRAI VP added.
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