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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.”

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