“Pictorial warnings covering 80% of cigarette packs: the President wants it, the Minister of Health wants it, all Members of Parliament want it, religious leaders want it, people want it, smokers want it.”
The above is the wording of a poster that hit the walls of Colombo last week. There was a key rider to this: “who is stopping it?”
“Who indeed?” is the question that needs to be asked.
The matter has been laid up in the courts for months now. All manner of legal technicalities have been raised to object, stay and obtain adjournment. Nothing illegal about it. The court, after all, must play fair by all parties. That’s where the problem is located though. The court will play fair or at least fairness is what is expected of the court. The tobacco industry has never played fair. Rather, it is advisable for those who oppose the tobacco industry to expect unfairness.
It would be foolish, after all, to expect an industry that has no qualms about making profit at the cost of people’s health to be too troubled by ethical issues.
Even in this land where the followers of the Buddha Vacana, the laws are not drawn from the Dhamma, let us not forget. Had that been the case, the notion of Samma Ajiva or ‘Right Livelihood’ would have ensured that there would no judges deliberating whether or not pictorial warnings infringed on any part of the law. Anti-tobacco activists who have been stumped at every turn by the tobacco industry would not be hovering at the courts with bated breath to see if for once their position is affirmed as ‘just’. The above poster would not have appeared on the walls of Colombo either.
But in this country where the good, the bad and the ugly of countries dominated by white people are embraced as not just good but ‘heavenly’, strangely enough, there seems to be an aversion to the rules and regulations pertaining to tobacco that white-dominated countries have adopted. It is no secret that the big name owners of tobacco are residenced in these same countries. Is it another case of ‘let’s poison those brown people and charge them for it while we keep our kids safe’, one is compelled to wonder.
To get back to the poster, though, the question is pertinent. The courts will do what is required by them and we shall not assume to be experts in the interpretation of the law. However, no court can forbid anyone from joining the dot and obtaining a picture. They may join them wrong and obtain a grotesque picture that the puzzle-maker had not envisaged of course, but in the main the majority will get it right.
Laws don’t fall from the sky. Laws are made by people’s representatives. That which becomes law by way of interpretation too, ideally, obtains in part from general sentiment. The general sentiment is something that has been captured accurately in the poster. It’s something to which the tag ‘beyond a shadow of doubt’ can be pinned with eyes closed in the classic manner in which those of the Lady of Justice are closed.
Who is opposed? That’s the question raised. Let us not answer that question. Sometime later today, though, we might have to ask ourselves ‘why?’ Let us see.