It burns, it fumes, it embraces your system and it kills. This phrase clinically identifies the intoxicant we popularly call the cigarette- that mix of nicotine, lead, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, radioactive elements and other chemicals and toxins. While we speak of a greener, healthier tomorrow, many are dying behind the scenes as a result of this monstrous industry which has negatively influenced the lives of many.
In an attempt to win this battle and save innocent lives, the Centre for Combating Tobacco (CCT) was established in May 2016 at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo in order to monitor activities of the tobacco industry in Sri Lanka and the region. Its partner organisations include the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA), Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) and Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC). In a progressive step towards reaching its goal, the CCT recently launched its official information portal – tobaccounmasked.lk.
tobaccounmasked.lk will serve as the information portal of the CCT, which will contain basic information about the tobacco industry, with detailed profiles of tobacco companies, companies relevant to Sri Lanka and their employees. The website also contains profiles of tobacco industry allies, institutions and individuals linked with the industry in various ways.
tobaccounmasked.lk describes the strategies adopted by the tobacco industry by influencing policy, tobacco tax and price related issues, corporate social investments, tobacco cultivation and marketing and promotion. The arguments presented by the tobacco industry and their responses against different policy processes are reported as a learning exercise for future reference.
tobaccounmasked. lk describes the strategies adopted by the tobacco industry by influencing policy, tobacco tax and price related issues
This is a user-friendly website and it will contain information produced by researchers and experts in
the field. Before information is posted on the site, it will be reviewed in order to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data.
“They operate in disguise” Dr.Palitha Abeykoon
Speaking at the event, National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) Chairman, Dr.Palitha Abeykoon said that the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was the first and the only international law on health, initiated by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“The FCTC treaty hence entered into force in February 2005, legally binds 180 ratifying countries as of 2017. The FCTC was adopted as an answer to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic. We were able to establish the NATA Act of 2003 and it works in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Presidential Task Force on Tobacco and Drug Prevention (PTFDP). The FCTC has 16 different articles and article 5.3 specifically dwells on implementing public health policies in the respective countries in relation to tobacco and alcohol control. But on the contrary there are countries that have voted in favor of the FCTC but have invited tobacco companies to rule them over.
Even in Sri Lanka, we still see the subtle interference by these companies when they advertise themselves on popular magazines that are published for tourists
In countries such as China, tobacco companies come under the purview of the Ministry of Finance which is more powerful than the MOH. Therefore it’s a serious profit-making business there. Even in Sri Lanka, we still see the subtle interference by these companies when they advertise themselves on popular magazines that are published for tourists. As a result they operate in disguise and we have to get rid of this menace.”
“One will unintentionally get trapped” Prof. Lakshman Dissanayake
Also present at the launch was Professor Lakshman Dissanayake, Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo who said that monitoring the behaviour of those in the tobacco and alcohol industry was one of his interests. “As someone who has been interested in studying demographics and social science, I showed a keen interest in studying the social aspects of various behaviours including that of the tobacco and alcohol industry. This tobacco business is something that a person will unintentionally get trapped in to. Therefore research is important for us to document the process and to unearth who actually influenced the people. In the mean time we also need to identify those who have given up on these habits despite the influences. By establishing units such as the CCT, the university can now conduct research on new fields. There are three aspects that we consider; Teaching, Training and Outreach and UOC have mastered all these aspects. This is why we have been ranked among the top 1000 universities.”
It’s a vector with much vengeance Dr. Mahesh Rajasuriya
In his comments, Consultant Psychiatrist and Director of CCT, Dr. Mahesh Rajasuriya emphasized on the need to promote everyday as a World No Tobacco Day. “The tobacco industry has been identified as a vector of disease thereby playing a pivotal role in causing harm to health. Tobacco use is communicated through media, the entertainment industry and also by marketing various products associated with it. While a virus is transmitted, tobacco use is communicated. Other industries that cause harm to health include fast food and alcohol which mainly exist as multinationals. Therefore they can cause enough harm to not only people in one country, but in many countries where their franchises are established.
They exert their powers by throwing money and they also brainwash people by making them realize that ‘if they smoke, they are normal’. When doubts arise as to whether tobacco would cause cancer, these people would then say ‘if people are predisposed, they will anyway get cancer even if they smoke or not’. Hence they clear doubts of people and make it appear as a normal phenomenon. The money and power of these industries are such that they also get involved in controlling the agenda, thereby showing their potential in major industries such as tourism.”
The tobacco industry has been identified as a vector of disease thereby playing a pivotal role in causing harm to health
Speaking further Dr. Mahesh also elaborated on why people should be concerned about this industry. “The tobacco industry steals children from parents and takes the father or the husband away from the family . A father who smokes doesn’t stay with the family. His life revolves around the cigarette. The smoke and chemicals then distort your image, disables and infects your system, ultimately taking your life away. Therefore the tobacco industry is a vector with much vengeance and thus we need to identify its breeding sites, monitor new trends in the industry and ‘fumigate’ them as and when they have been discovered.”
PICS BY DAMITHWICKRAMASINGHE