The Health Ministry said today that the government suffered a staggering loss of Rs.4 billion each year due to non-communicable diseases caused due to smoking and said the ministry was committed to reduce the habit of smoking.
The tobacco industry filed action against Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena in the Court of Appeal on November 2 requesting an order to prevent the implementation of pictorial warnings on cigarette packs as ordered by the minister in a gazette notification issued in August this year.
Ministry Spokesman W.A.D Wanninayake said that the ministry issued a gazette notice to introduce pictorial warnings with images of illnesses caused due to smoking along with warnings in all three languages to prevent the increasing rate of non-communicable diseases.
“About 75% of deaths that occur each day in the country are due to non-communicable diseases caused due to the use of cigarettes. Our objective in issuing the gazette notice is to ensure a healthy society,” he said.
In 2005 Sri Lanka was one of the first countries to ratify the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which requires signatories to introduce warning labels and pictures of ailments caused due to smoking cigarettes.
Medical experts said have said that introducing pictorial warnings on cigarette packs would significantly reduce the number of smokers and that the implementation of the pictorial warnings had been effective in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore and over 15 other countries.
Meanwhile, the National Authority of Alcohol and Tobacco (NATA) said that since a court decision had not yet been taken NATA would follow the provisions of the gazette notice and proceed with the implementation of the gazette unless a court decision rules otherwise. (Olindhi Jayasundere)