Sri Lanka: Invisible Hand Blocking Pictorial Warnings

Cancer Care Association (CCA) President Dr. Samadhi Rajapaksa yesterday alleged that there was an unseen hand behind the inordinate delay in the implementation of Pictorial Health Warning (PHW) covering 80 percent of the display area of cigarette packets in spite of a new law passed by Parliament.

Dr. Rajapaksa said about 55 people died daily in Sri Lanka due to tobacco consumption.

Addressing a media briefing organised by the Jeewaka Foundation held at the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) he said that three people died in Sri Lanka daily due to oral cancers owing to tobacco consumption.

In 2012, the government published a special gazette notification approving the implementation of PHWs in Sri Lanka. It has not been  implemented because Ceylon Tobacco Lanka filed a law suit against the Health Minister and the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA).

In February this year, Parliament approved the Bill submitted by the Health Minister. However, the tobacco company is yet awaiting a decision of the Court of Appeal which is due on May 12.

Meanwhile, Dr. Rajapaksa maintained that the President had the power to stop the tobacco use in the country within 24 hours.

He explained that around 29.9 percent of males in Sri Lanka were smokers while the female percentage was around 0.4 percent.

The CCA President also mentioned that over 20,000 people died in Sri Lanka annually due to tobacco related health issues.

Addressing the media UNP MP Buddhika Pathirna said about 35 people had died due to terrorism in the past but around 55 people died daily due to tobacco use and, therefore, he said that tobacco companies were the real terrorists in the country.

He also stressed that though it was illegal to engage in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects for tobacco companies, the tobacco monopoly of Sri Lanka Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC) had been engaging in CSR projects under different agricultural ministers.

He alleged that the CSR projects were performed by CTC under the present Agriculture Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, then Minister Hemakumara Nanayakkara and JVP Minister Anura Kumara Dissanayake.

MP Pathirana said that the total tax revenue from tobacco had decreased dramatically during past ten years.

Cancer Care Association President Dr. Samadhi Rajapaksa, Lawyer Bashini Hettiarachchi, NATA President Dr. Lalith Chandradasa, Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMC) President and NATA former President Prof. Carlo Fonseka. Enditem