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What’s Next Mr Minister? Mangala’s Tobacco Tricks Vs Rajitha’s ‘Health’

24 June 2019 12:05 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • WHO statistics show that while tobacco use has declined in several developed nations
  • On the other hand we can help the ten thousand Chinese workers to gradually give up smoking by forcing them to try a local product which they, according to Finance Minister dislike to consume

‘Flame and the Fool’

The subtitle is not in any way intended at the two gentlemen politicians, but to quote the contemptuous description of a lighted fag .., “A Flame at one end; a Fool at the other”, a creation of mischievous anti-tobacco campaigners.   
Making headlines in the height of war days, the two veteran but controversial politicians who paraded the streets sharing a common slogan, “Denounce War against LTTE & Negotiate with Mr Prabhakaran,”  are at loggerheads following Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s move to allow import of Chinese cigarettes for the use of Chinese workers in the island and earn ‘a few more dollars’ to his bankrupt coffers. Health Minister Rajitha the astute man knows that an increase in consumption cannot be predicted for two reasons— the local smoker [the fool at the other end] will never switch over to or get attracted to Chinese product in preference his favourite brand. 
In the 20th century, Tobacco related deaths exceeded 100 million, of which eighty million were from the third world. Tobacco kills one person every 20 seconds around the world. The world statistics are in an upward movement with an alarming five percent a year with Sri Lanka ironically signifying a dip partly due to introduction of legislation since 2015 by Maithri-Rajitha combine. The ADIC, the Late Prof Kodagoda and few other activists, GMOA deserve tribute for their untiring volunteer work in reducing the earlier 20,000 deaths [figures rounded off to the nearest 1,000s] due to obstructions imposed on direct and indirect advertising by the mass murderers a year due to smoke related ailments by appreciable levels.   

 

"Importing cigarettes will certainly affect the local industry which is a monopoly. Some believe our Cabinet Ministers, present and past were on the pay list of Tobacco giants"

 

Daily Mirror [18th June] quoted Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne saying he would not allow the import of foreign cigarettes to Sri Lanka as long as he is the Minister of Health. The news item further quotes Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera that cigarettes should be imported from China as Chinese workers in Sri Lanka are highly dependent on them. Rajitha provided statistics said there were only 6,000 registered Chinese workers in Sri Lanka but there are about 10,000 Indian workers. “If we allow the import of Chinese cigarettes for 6,000 workers, then India will ask to send Indian cigarettes to some 10,000 of its workers here. Russia could also say that they want to send their cigarettes. As long as I’m the Health Minister, I won’t allow the import of foreign cigarettes.” However, his opponents say he is now on a different agenda, which is outside the scope of this piece.   

Harmful Effects of Smoking 

With the changing times what the people and science did not know couple of decades before is now coming to the surface. The harmful effects of smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products ; many related health problems are being increasingly acknowledged and exposed. We observe that people live longer and healthier lives and the old concepts that smoking makes you calm and attractive is perhaps not so palpable now. 
The real truth about cigarettes is they are loaded with harmful chemicals and the consequences are that they are a hazardous drug that can cause serious ill effects.   
Two or three decades ago, with Americans and Europeans becoming extra health conscious and anti-smoking lobbies mushrooming, cigarette giants found it hard to increase sales in the West. Third world, South Asia in particular turned out to be good hunting grounds for the multinationals seeking new consumers and expanded markets.   
British American Tobacco BAT, the parent of our CTC, merged with another American tobacco giant, Rothmans two decades ago and since then the twosome have been making a ‘harmonized’ assault on poor nations generously throwing billions of dollars into advertising, and where advertising is banned, offering good deals to authorities both in state, political powers in highest echelons to attract new smokers or prevent competitive action.   

Mafia Hired Margaret Thatcher

The powerful mafias behind the promotion of tobacco, in one of the most notorious cases in the world was evidence of how the international mafia hired Britain’s former Prime Minister, one time ‘Iron Lady’ Margaret Thatcher with millions of pounds for her role in helping to promote tobacco sales in the third world by striking a deal through her son Mark Thatcher. Mark, the owner of MT-Foundation received the payments in 1992. Two United States tobacco giants paid Ms. Thatcher as their consultant, for advice on promoting tobacco smoking in third world countries, which information was leaked to British newspapers. They even hired political trouble shooters to counter the exposures in the media. Importing cigarettes will certainly affect the local industry which is a monopoly. Some believe our Cabinet Ministers, present and past were on the pay list of Tobacco giants.   
There has been a noticeable change in the tobacco smoking patterns in recent times. Though the general trend is downwards but children taking up to it continues to cause a major problem. There are quite a few reasons for the overall drop in smoking; increasing prices of cigarettes being number one. Effective action taken by school authorities, legislative ban of smoking inside buildings, intensive health education on the harmful effects of tobacco, state and private media sponsored awareness campaigns against smoking, warnings printed on the packing. [Parliament, had by a vote of all 225 MPs, approved legislation that compelled the manufacturers cover 80 percent of the packet of cigarettes by a pictorial health warning.]   
Our main cigarette manufacturer in its annual report boasted of contributions to the government coffers by way of taxes.   

 

"The real truth about cigarettes is they are loaded with harmful chemicals and the consequences are that they are a hazardous drug that can cause serious ill effects"


WHO statistics show that while tobacco use has declined in several developed nations mainly due to the stringent imposition of harsh laws, but tobacco smoking is increasing in third world countries who have not had a proper awareness campaigns or education. The people in poor countries are the main targets of the multinational tobacco mafias. Mahinda Rajapaksa in his presidential elections manifesto in 2005, pledged he would implement laws to end the tobacco menace. The NATA was set up accordingly. But when his Health Minister, the present President attempted to introduce legislation restricting the propaganda on tobacco, the poor man was summoned before a team of Mafia men at Temple Trees to explain the logic of his idea; obviously he failed. The WHO has advised that the tobacco mafia has engaged a six-pronged strategy to counteract anti-tobacco legislation. The mafia will intimately monitor the law makers and move in to seize opportunities and act swiftly. They will attack a department or a politician who endeavour to bring in anti-tobacco measures.   

Chinese Factor 

China records the largest production and smoke of tobacco globally and a remarkable increase in tobacco consumption over the decades. 67% of Chinese males and 5% of female adults [over 15 years] in China smoke. The constant increase in the Chinese smokers is mainly due to young people taking up smoking. Among teenagers 15–19 years, 18% of men and 0.28% of women ( a total of 9 million) are smokers. The average daily use of tobacco per person rose from one cigarette in 1951 to 10 cigarettes four decades later. China will witness a considerable increase in deaths as a consequence to this increase. The predicted casualties attributed to smoking in the country will exceed three million in 30 years. 2050. 65% of all smoking related deaths in China are attributed to lung cancer and pulmonary tuberculosis. The morbidity of such ailments in China is expected to be over 3%, [ 25 million people, of whom 72% were smokers]. The Chinese government continually supports smoking restrictions and advocates abstinence through legislation to restrain advertising and sale of tobacco.   
It is rather difficult to believe importing fags would motivate non-smokers to take up the habit, especially a Chinese product. On the other hand we can help the ten thousand Chinese workers to gradually give up smoking by forcing them to try a local product which they, according to Finance Minister dislike to consume. Even if he imposes a 60-70% excise and other taxes, the smuggled sold at one-third the price will continue to attract the poorly paid Chinese and local labour, as long as the Customs unknowingly or scrupulously allow the smuggled, tax evaded stuff to continue to sail in to the market.   

Writer can be contacted at - kksperera1@gmail.com

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