After having successfully implemented the anti-tobacco legislation of mandatory 80% pictorial warning on cigarette packets, the Ministry of Health’s next objective is to remove all branding from tobacco products, and to enforce plain packaging of cigarettes.
Speaking at an event on prevention and control of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), Director of Non Communicable Diseases Unit, Ministry of Health, Dr. Thilak Siriwardana said that such legislation would allow only a small space for the brand name to be visible on tobacco packaging. He added that such plain packaging laws are already in effect in Australia, where a staggering decline in tobacco consumption has been observed.
“We believe that the price of tobacco is still at a very affordable level. The prices of cigarettes are still very low when compared with the growth of purchasing power. This is another aspect that we are looking into,” Dr. Siriwardana said.
The event, which was held as a part of a Joint Mission of the United Nations Interagency Task Force to assist Sri Lanka, aims to assist the country in addressing preventable NCDs.
In 2012, 75 percent of all deaths in Sri Lanka were due to NCDs. The four main NCDs contributing to this number were cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes mellitus and chronic respiratory diseases.
“One in five people die prematurely from NCDs, causing three fourths of all deaths in Sri Lanka,” senior advisor, WHO Headquarters in Geneva Dr. Nick Banatvala, addressing the media said. He said that the Task force has identified four important risk factors in Sri Lanka which contribute to these numbers, namely; tobacco consumption, alcohol consumption, insufficient physical activity and unhealthy diet.
According to the WHO, the NCD Progress Monitor 2015, while Sri Lanka has fully achieved National NCD targets and indicators, the tobacco demand-reduction measures have been only partially achieved.