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Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) said “Pictorial warning is the most cost effective means of controlling tobacco related Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs), including cancer”, and added “countries can get return on their investment in multiple areas”. Paying tribute to countries including Sri Lanka whom she said “had the courage to keep going despite heavy resistance by the tobacco industry”, Dr. Chan said “without our joint effort, you know what effect tobacco would take. We should not allow an industry to intimidate governments, make money and leave you with all the health consequences”. She urged that “the international community come together to fight the tobacco industry”.

Dr. Chan made these observations when she inaugurated a session on the theme “Strategies to overcome resistance against pictorial warning messages in tobacco products”, hosted by Sri Lanka on the sidelines of the 68th World Health Assembly at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on Monday (25th May 2015).

This was the first ever side event hosted by Sri Lanka during an annual assembly. Thailand, Bangladesh, Bhutan and the WHO co-sponsored the event to show case problems encountered when taking steps to implement pictorial warnings in cigarette packets and how Sri Lanka, Thailand and Bangladesh as well as other countries had overcome the resistance. Lessons learnt will be useful to other member states. A documentary produced by Sri Lanka named “Against the tide” depicted the resistance encountered. The steps taken by Sri Lanka were appreciated by all who attended.