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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

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