Matchbox producers in TN upset as government fails to consider lighters as single-use plastics

Back home in Tamil Nadu, which is the major supplier of matchboxes across the country, the import of plastic lighters has played a drastic spoilsport for the match factories.
Image used for representational purpose only. (Photo | Pexels)
Image used for representational purpose only. (Photo | Pexels)

THOOTHUKUDI:  The safety match manufacturers in Tamil Nadu are a disappointed lot as the state government has refrained from classifying cigarette lighters as single-use plastic products and thus effecting a ban on them. The manufacturers said though Minister for MSMEs Tha Mo Anbarasan had assured them of taking steps to ban Chinese plastic lighters akin to the regulation in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, no action has been taken yet.

The Andaman and Nicobar authorities had imposed a complete ban on the usage, storage, import, manufacture, transportation, distribution, sale, and disposal of plastic-bodied cigarette lighters of all sizes with a view to abate environmental pollution through a gazette notification dated September 5, 2019.

Back home in Tamil Nadu, which is the major supplier of matchboxes across the country, the import of plastic lighters has played a drastic spoilsport for the match factories. Over 90% of the match manufacturing units in the state are in Kovilpatti, Tirunelveli, Sattur, Kaveripoompattinam, and Gudiyatham. The lighters have already eaten up at least 25% of the matchbox demand in the market.

Meanwhile, instead of heeding the manufacturers' demand to classify lighters as single-use plastic products, the state government has been placing the onus on the union government. Chief Minister MK Stalin on Thursday appealed to the union government to declare an immediate ban on cigarette lighters and safeguard the livelihood of the people. He had also raised the same demand last September.

Lighters are mostly used by cigarette smokers. "One lighter is equivalent to 20 matchboxes and thus it takes a heavy toll on our units," the manufacturers pointed out. They also claimed that the lighters are being illegally imported from China using manipulated invoices. "A check into some invoices had revealed that the lighters were imported as 'empty lighter cases' so as to bypass the restrictions governing inflammable substances and hoodwink the customs officials at seaports," says Kathiravan, secretary of Tamil Nadu Match Manufacturers Association.

National Small Match Manufacturers Association secretary VS Sethurathinam told TNIE that they have been requesting the Tamil Nadu government to pass a G.O. placing plastic lighters under the category of single-use plastic or throwaway plastic considering its adverse environmental impact, for the past two years. Since Tamil Nadu is home to 90% of match factories in the country, the ban on plastic lighters will keep the sector from waning, he said.

A delegation of safety match factory owners visited Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman last December and appraised her of the issue. DMK Rajya Sabha MP Tiruchy Siva had voiced their concerns in the parliament, and Kovilpatti MLA Kadambur C Raju had appealed twice in the Assembly in favour of the safety match factories. "It is disappointing to note that MSME minister Anbarasan has not even considered promulgating an order to ban the lighters on the ground that they were single-use plastics, despite repeated appeals and dialogues with him," Sethurathinam said. Repeated attempts to contact the MSME minister Anbarasan proved futile.

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