An important first step to save the younger generation from many forms of addictions—including the hi-tech negative side of Facebook-- Parliament yesterday debated and approved regulations intended to curb the use of tobacco and alcohol.
Professor Carlo Fonseka, Chairman of the National Alcohol and Tobacco Authority (NATA) and also the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) told a news conference President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena and the Government were determined to go ahead with this war on addictions despite efforts by vested interests to thwart this move by various means.
In terms of the regulations, packets of cigarettes will have to carry a large pictorial warning that smoking may cause oral and lung cancer or respiratory deceases. Prof. Fonseka said the Government hoped to fully implement these regulations within six months with NATA and other institutions ensuring they were effectively implemented.
While there was virtually unanimous support for these regulations in parliament and in the country, the Government would also need to act urgently and effectively to tackle the heroin crisis which--as seen in the discovery of a container carrying about 260 kilograms of heroin—has reached disturbing and devastating proportions. If tobacco is a multi-million rupee business then heroin is a multi-billion rupee racket which causes far more damage including mental ailments to young people and others. The arrest of a Pakistani suspect over the smuggling of the heroin container has brought forth evidence that Sri Lanka—for various reasons including easier access—may soon become the South Asian centre for heroin smuggling. With the United States troops pulling out of Afghanistan heroin smuggling in the South Asian region may increase drastically and the Rajapaksa regime needs to empower NATA to look into this trend.
In recent months the media also recorded several cases where Customs officers detected several containers carrying ethanol which is used for the production of alcohol. Evidence indicates there was some political involvement in this smuggling of ethanol and though a few containers were detected, we do not know how many went undetected because corruption is so rampant not only among politicians but also in vital departments including the Customs and the Police.
Recently President Rajapaksa in a public speech expressed grave concern over the negative impact that the Facebook was having specially on young people. The President said he had watched a recent television programme where an expert had revealed the extent of the crisis by citing the case where a young girl had communicated regularly with a Facebook stranger and finally when they decided to meet the stranger turned out to be her own father.
On Tuesday the principal of a Kurunegala school was arrested after a schoolgirl committed suicide when she was reprimanded over a Facebook incident. Technology experts say that earlier schoolchildren had access to the Facebook or degusting internet pornography cites only on their computers. This was more easily detectable by the parents or they could block the porn sites. But now with smart phones ringing all over the country, the children could easily go to some hidden place to access a porn site or log into Facebook. When all this horrible filth is fed into the mind, heart and character of children what comes out is devastating for them, for their families and for the country.
We hope the unanimity seen in implementing the anti-tobacco and anti-alcohol regulations will also be seen in addressing the more monstrous addictions such as heroin, pornography and Facebook sex.