“If use of cigarettes is completely banned, the global warm could be reduced by 5 percent. To enable those, international pressures should be exerted; brave legal decisions should be taken. Action should also be taken at international stage against commercial campaigns of tobacco companies. Sri Lanka should suggest the UN to ban at international stage whatever illegal trade which is harmful to human beings, said Senior Advisor to President, Ven Athuraliye Rathana Thera addressing the launching ceremony of the five year Drug Prevention Program held at Ja-Ela Municipal Grounds under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena.
At the function where the National Drug Prevention Month was declared Ven. Thera said, “President Maithripala Sirisena was greatly involved in making Lankan people free from drug use. The uneducated sector is specifically faced with problems caused through use of cigarettes, alcohol and illicit drugs. Another important issue that he solved is banning of glycol-phosphate and enabled millions of beings in the country to live.”
He said that arrangements are being made to establish a coordinating center to look into the affairs of illicit drugs and a program to raise awareness among the intelligence section of the Army, STF, Excise Department and Army Officers was held for discussion to minimize international pressures.
It was also disclosed that when the President visited Pakistan he had requested for establishing a network of controlling illicit drug trade taking place within Asia Pacific countries. Since then the number of arrests of culprits has increased.
Currently, there are about hundred thousand drug users in the country and it has been suggested to entrust with 5000 religious leaders to rehabilitate at least two drug addicts in their premises so that these drug addicts could be freed from drug dealers.
“No politicians should be involved in drug business. A program to prevent such involvement is planned. The Thera emphasized the fact that in addition to these measures, becoming sensitive to the problem in the hearts of everybody at great level should be a must to make the move a very strong one. We fervently hope that the President would take exemplary decisions as a role model to the entire region.”
“The existence of cigarette industry is a historical accident”, said Dr. Palitha Abeykoon, Chairman of the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol. I request President Maithirpala Sirisena to make Sri Lanka the first to eradicate drug menace in Asia Pacific countries.”
Dr. Rajitha Senarathne, Minister of Health negating tobacco industry claim about revenue to government coffers said; “The government is spending 40 billion rupees for medicine for a year in hospital use and 80 billion rupees for medicine being purchased outside. Therefore, the government has to spend more than the tax money it receives from cigarettes and drugs to treat those patients”
While stating that increase of tobacco tax and introducing pictorial health warnings on cigarette packets are some effective strategies to reduce consumption, he attributed the victory gained in introducing PHWs was not a comfortable one.
It was related that President Maithirpala Sirisena, as the then Health Minister had to answer the questions in a “Witness Box” raised by members of tobacco company, in the President’s House. “It was the tobacco company who had been favored by the Supreme Court,” he said.
“As a country, everybody realizes the necessity of having a national plan to steadily proceed. In this process raising awareness to prevent use of tobacco and alcohol as well as a broad plan to prevent influx of illicit drugs is vital.” said President Maithiripala Sirisena.
I have a great deal of experience gained by going through challenges in taking measures to reduce tobacco use. I deem that politicians should not have any involvement with illicit drug trade. If found involved, as a government we will take the highest legal action against them, without considering their social status.
Making people aware is number one; but it is not the only thing. We expect to enacting and enforcing new laws without considering the positions of those who violate laws.