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Sri Lanka gets UK funds for tobacco control

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TobaccoUnmasked at Sri Lanka observatory

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Anti- Smoking campaigners question the financial request from the Ceylon Tobacco Company

The government is accused of making an unethical decision on its fight against tobacco and alcohol consumption by seeking a donation of 500 million rupees from the Ceylon Tobacco company, as per a proposal in budget 2017.

Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake requested the donation to be utilized by the Presidential Task Force for the Anti-Smoking campaign.

However, it is stated that this request violates Article 13 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which states that tobacco industry should not be a partner in initiatives linked to setting up or implementing public health policies.

Sri Lanka is one of the key signatories to this convention.

Speaking to our news team, Director Human Development and Administration at the Alcohol and Drug Information Centre, Sampath de Seram stated that such a request violates the country’s alcohol and drug control act as well.

Lanka to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products

Sri Lanka is planning to introduce plain packaging of all tobacco products in a new step to curb its consumption, President Maithripala Sirisena said yesterday.

Stating consumption of smokeless tobacco was an alarming issue in Sri Lanka and the entire region, Sirisena said there should not be any kind of compromise with the tobacco industry.

Sri Lankan Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne is proposing to introduce plain packaging as another important measure in the near future, and “here we thank the FCTC for the excellent technical support”, said Sirisena.

The Sri Lankan president was speaking at the opening ceremony of the WHO FCTC COP7 – the world’s biggest convention on tobacco control policies being held in India for the first time.

Sri Lanka ratified the FCTC in 2005 and was one of the first country to sign the FCTC. It passed a Tobacco and Alcohol Act in 2006 and set up the Tobacco and Alcohol Authority, popularly known as NATA.

“With support of the WHO and FCTC, we regularly monitor the trends of tobacco prevalence among the populations,” said Sirisena.

Accusing the tobacco industry of being a dishonest industry, Sirisena said: “The tobacco industry often distorts and challenges the best scientific knowledge, promotes dishonest arguments that have nothing to do with the truth.

“We know that the industry will try to influence policy makers in many ways, often support petitioners to challenge government legislation and persuade the mass media.

“This to me is a direct interference in the internal policy matters of any country. We need not have any compromise of any kind with the tobacco industry,” said Sirisena.

Sri Lanka has 80% pictorial warnings mandatory on all the packets of tobacco products.

The president, who held the health portfolio during former president Mahinda Rajapakse’s tenure, had once called for a fight against the rising illicit trade of tobacco products.

He also urged more countries to ratify the FCTC Protocol.

Highlighting the rising problem of smokeless tobacco consumption in Sri Lanka and in the region, Sirisena said: “I would urge the FCTC to address the issue of smokeless tobacco also very seriously in the years to come. Cost of neglect can be very high.”

Oral cancer attributable to betel chewing with tobacco leaves and areca nuts – Dr. Prasanna Jayasekera

In Sri Lanka of the cancers prevalent among males, a quarter is oral cancer which is attributable to betel chewing with tobacco leaves and areca nuts, says Dr. Prasanna Jayasekera, Consultant in Community Dentistry of the National Cancer Control Program.

According to Dr. Jayasekera, while there are 28 carcinogens in tobacco leaves, areca nuts contain 4 cancer causing toxics.

Thus the users eventually become cancer victims. Dr. Jayasekera sends across a special message to the public, ” Avoid using these toxic substances which are addictive. If there are changes noticed in the mouth such as red patches, white patches or red and white mixed patches, go to the nearest MOH office or to the dental clinic for a checkup.”

As regards preventive methods, he said there are special programs for school children. The authority is alert and advises school authorities to be vigilant on tobacco associated product selling centres near schools.

Dr. Jayasekera, specially requests school teachers to be vigilant on school children, if noticed children’s behavior change and got to know that they purchase or use such products. Teachers should take immediate action and inform the Public Health Inspectors about such selling centres.

Oral cancer which is very dangerous puts a victim into a very pathetic situation. When a person suffers from oral cancer the entire area has to be removed in the mouth. Fifty percent of victims succumb death within 5 years. In a year 2422 oral cancer new patients are discovered in Sri Lanka and at least 3-4 patients die in a day, though this situation is preventable, if one avoids using tobacco leaves and area nuts.

When taking into consideration the situation during the past 5 years, there is a 40 percent increase in oral cancers. It is more prevalent among old people. The reason is that they have got exposed to risk factors for a long period.

The National Cancer Control Program (NCCP) is engaged in ensuring primary prevention of cancers by addressing risk factors and determinants by improved public awareness and empowerment.

The NCCP is the national focal point for prevention and control of cancers in the country and is responsible for policy, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation of prevention and control of cancers.

Tobacco tax blazes to 90 percent, blank packs with health warning

A proposal to raise taxes on import of tobacco to 90 percent from the existing 72 percent will be taken up by the Cabinet tomorrow. The Cabinet paper will be submitted jointly by President Maithripala Sirisena and Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne. Dr. Senaratne said the additional revenue would be used to offset losses resulting from the suspension of the Value Added Taxes on some private health services and to meet part of the expenditure to treat patients affected by smoking-related illnesses. An estimated 20,000 tobacco-related deaths are reported annually, according to the Health Ministry.

The Minister said another Cabinet proposal would be introduced for the health warning to remain on the cigarette packet while no advertising would be allowed except for a small brand name. Dr. Senaratne said Sri Lanka would be the first South Asian country to have such cigarette packets.

Govt. to cut ties with alcohol industry; sponsorships, CSR projects to be stopped

A national alcohol control policy intended to cut direct or indirect ties between the alcohol industry and both government and non-governments sectors is to be introduced soon.

Abolishing of the duty free import and sale of alcohol products is also among the far reaching changes advocated by the national policy which seeks to cut down the high prevalence of alcoholism in the country and reduce the social economic problems associated with it. The draft has been gazetted.

When implemented, the researchers and funders with direct or indirect links with the alcohol industry or its front-organisations, in the past or present, will be excluded from any initiatives related to this policy.

Also steps will be taken to phase out all Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects by the alcohol industry. This is because such CSR projects allowed access to and influencing of Government and Non-Government sectors.

There will also be a curb on sponsorship or support from the alcohol industry for development or implementation of public health, fiscal, education, trade, a youth, sports and other government policies and programmes. The policy also envisages new legislation and regulations to stop all forms of promotion of alcohol use through locally and internationally produced publications and entertainment programmes including television, dramas and cinema. Directors, translators, sponsors and the media organisations transmitting such programmes would be held liable for violations.

The policy also seeks to improve transparency of alcohol taxation to ensure that the the tax that the government receives from each price increase is made public. The data will also be made publicly accessible with steps taken to ensure that production volumes are not underestimated when computing the taxes due to the Government.

Tax concessions such as Board of Investment (BOI) status are also to be withdrawn for production, distribution and sale of alcohol within Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan President to forgo income from drug and tobacco to save country from drug menace

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena says he is ready to relinquish the income received by the government from the sale of drug and tobacco to save the country and the people from the drug menace.

Speaking at the concluding ceremony of the series of the programs of the 4th phase of the “Drug Free Country”, the National Program for Drug Prevention held Tuesday at the National Youth Services Council in Maharagama, the President said it is essential to prevent drug menace to build a disciplined country with a better economy.

“The government is working to face that challenge with the help of everybody,” the President said.

He said the instructions have been given to establish separate units in all government institutions for the prevention and control of drug and these units should have meetings once in three months.

“They should fulfill the responsibility to convey a message to the society to prevent people from drug use,” the President said.

The President further said that the existence of legal drugs, for which the government has granted licenses, and the illegal drugs pose a major challenge to the government as it is a social problem. He added that whether it’s legal or illegal, drug abuse does a great harm to human lives.

The Colombo district action plan for the prevention of drug abuse was presented to the President by the Colombo District Secretary Sunil Kannangara. The events of today’s program were based on Colombo District.

The President also presented awards to individuals for their commitment to eliminate the drug menace from the country.

Mr. Edward Mallawarachchi presented three books written by him regarding the chronic kidney disease and drug addiction, to the President at the event.

The Maha Sangha including Most Venerable Ittapane Dhammalankara Thera, Pathberiye Wimalagana Nayaka Thero, Minister Susil Premajayantha, MPs Jagath Pushpakumara, Eric Weerawardena, Western Provincial Councilor Gamini Thilakasiri and the others participated in the event.

Health Minister, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne receives the World No Tobacco Day Award 2015

The World Health Organization (WHO) has selected Minister of Health Dr. Rajitha Senaratne as the recipient of the World No Tobacco Day Award for 2015.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has selected Minister of Health Dr. Rajitha Senaratne as the recipient of the World No Tobacco Day Award for 2015.

The “World No Tobacco Day” is observed on May 31st every year, under various tobacco related themes.

The objective of doing so is to encourage a 24 hour period of abstinence from tobacco consumption throughout the world.

Another aim of this initiative is to make the public aware about the extensive prevalence of tobacco consumption, the health hazards it poses and encourage people to quit using tobacco.

On this day the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes individuals or organizations from the six WHO Regions for their accomplishments in the field of tobacco control.

The WHO specifically mentions Dr.Senaratne’s role in advancing the introduction of pictorial health warnings on the cigarette packs and the effort to get the court approval for this purpose. It also recognizes the professional life long work done by the Hon. Minister in mitigating the ill effects of tobacco, particularly smokeless tobacco. Even as a student in Dental Sciences, he was in the forefront of the fight against tobacco use which is the main reason for cancers and many other diseases. Later he carried this interest into his professional and political life as well. This year the Health Minister has been chosen as the recipient of this prestigious award to both honour and recognize his untiring efforts towards tobacco control.

This award will be presented to the Minister of Health Dr. Rajitha Senaratne by the President Maithripala Sirisena on 7th December 2015.

The Chairman of the National Authority, Dr. Palitha Abeykoon, stated that Sri Lanka has made tremendous progress in their battle against tobacco during recent past years and this year the implementation of the regulation on pictorial health warnings (PHWs) took place with coverage of 80 percent on cigarette packets effective from 1st of July, 2015.

This became a reality largely due to the efforts of His Excellency, the President Maithripala Sirisena who stood firm on this matter for many years. Last year he was bestowed with the World No Tobacco Day award, in recognition of his untiring efforts to realize the above as the then Minister of Health.

Dr. Abeykoon stated; “While congratulating the Health Minister, we would like to draw his attention to many other key issues that Sri Lanka should achieve in the near future to eradicate tobacco consumption from Sri Lanka.

These include, the adoption of a solid tobacco taxation policy, strengthening of anti tobacco laws, establishing smoking ban “at all public places”, monitoring of direct and indirect advertising and banning corporate social responsibility initiatives, encouraging and educating children to refrain from taking up smoking, extending help for those who wish to quit.”

Dr. Abeykoon suggests that the government should take measures to protect the children and make them strong enough to resist peer pressure and other media pressures which are intended to entice them to use tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.

“We specifically draw the attention of Hon. Minister of Health to implement Article 16 of the FCTC of the WHO (sales to any by minors) which obligates Parties to the Treaty to implement this important Article and reduce affordability of cigarettes to minors and prevent non using youth from experimenting to smoking, by prohibiting the sale of single stick sales or small cigarette packages in Sri Lanka. Banning of single stick and mini pack sales are also important to make the PHW implementation more comprehensive.” requests Dr. Abeykoon.

Currently 6 million deaths occur worldwide, including 600000 deaths caused due to passive smoking.

The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which is one of the most widely adopted treaties in the United Nations system entered into force in 2005, to reduce the devastating global consequences of tobacco products on health, lives and economies.

The FCTC is a legally binding treaty that requires countries bound by the treaty or Parties to implement evidence based measures to reduce tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.

Currently there are 180 Parties to the FCTC as of March 2015.

The FCTC provides a broad framework of obligations and rights for Parties to implement various tobacco control measures. The Parties to the FCTC have adopted various implementing guidelines to provide effective implementation of the treaty.

Since 2005, more than 40 countries have enacted or implemented strong smoke-free legislation across the globe, including all sub-national jurisdictions in Australia and Canada.

In Latin America, 16 countries have passed strong smoke-free legislation, including Brazil, the most populous country in the world to enact 100 percent smoke-free legislation.

Since 2005, more than 75 countries have enacted or implemented graphic warning labels that cover at least 30 percent of tobacco packaging.

At least 24 countries are classified by the World Health Organization as having passed complete tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship bans.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including cancer, heart disease, chronic lung disease and diabetes have overtaken infectious diseases as the leading killers in the world. Of the deaths that occur worldwide, nearly two out of every three are due to NCDs. Of them eighty percent deaths occur in low and middle income countries.

Tobacco use is the only risk factor shared by all four main categories of NCDs. Tobacco is responsible for nearly one in six deaths from NCDs and kills nearly six million people worldwide, every year.

Therefore at the UN High Level Meeting on NCDs, world leaders made an unprecedented commitment to address the global health crisis caused by NCDs and recognized that the battle against NCDs cannot be won with winning the fight against tobacco.

In 2010, the first Global Status Report of WHO on NCD recommended 10 ‘best buys’ , viz. cost effective actions that governments should undertake immediately to prevent NCDs, save lives and reduce health care costs. Of them four are proven tobacco control policies contained in the FCTC.

* Protect people from secondhand smoke and ban smoking in public places;
* Warn about the dangers of tobacco use.
* Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and
* Raise taxes on tobacco.

It is expected that implementation of FCTC policies would prevent 5.5 million deaths over 10 years in 23 low and middle income countries with a high burden of NCDs and cost less than 20 cents per person per year in countries such as China and India.

– Asian Tribune

Sri Lanka – 80% picture warnings starting to appear on store shelves

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