The following is a communiqué issued by the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) Expert Committee on Tobacco and Alcohol together with the Council of the Sri Lanka Medical Association
The number of people dying each year in Sri Lanka from diseases related to tobacco use has been estimated to be between 12,000 and 20,000. In addition, substantial numbers of patients are admitted to hospitals with heart diseases, strokes and cancers, conditions in which tobacco is known to be a causative factor.
A large number of children are also admitted to hospitals due to illnesses related to second-hand smokeing. Hard-earned money is spent on purchasing tobacco and in obtaining treatment for the above mentioned conditions.
"We wish to express our grave concern about the delay in mandating pictorial warnings on the adverse consequences of tobacco use. It has been almost one year since the government’s gazette notification was issued in this regard"
We were greatly pleased and encouraged to see that the Ministry of Health has issued a Gazette Notification that mandates pictorial warnings on the adverse consequences of tobacco use, covering 80 per cent of the principal display areas of all cigarette packs sold in Sri Lanka. Large pictorial warnings are known to prevent children and young people from taking to smoking and also increase quitting. Research has shown that pictorial warnings should cover approximately 80 percent of the principal display areas to have the desired results. Such warnings make it difficult for the tobacco industry to display cigarette packs attractively at sales points such as shops and supermarkets where children and adults are commonly exposed to tobacco packages.
We greatly appreciate the efforts that the government is taking to implement this measure despite strong opposition by the tobacco industry. We are concerned that the tobacco industry will keep fighting to delay implementation of this measure, using many strategies.
Therefore, while we fully support the efforts undertaken by the government to mandate pictorial health warnings covering 80 per cent of the front and back of the cigarette packs, and to declare the toxic substances contained in cigarettes in each pack, we also wish to express our grave concern about the delay in its implementation. Up to the present time, it has been almost one year from the time the Gazette Notification was issued.
We hope that this measure will be implemented as quickly as possible in view of the fact that people die from tobacco-related diseases each day and young users are getting hooked each day.