The National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) is to bring new laws to amend its Act to regulate smoking in hotels and pubs.

According to law, smoking in public areas is prohibited.

The Sri Lanka Cancer Society (SLCS) highlighted that hotels and restaurants were exploiting loopholes in the law, specifically the NATA (Amendment) Act, which has resulted in non-smokers being exposed to second hand smoke.

President of the SLCS, A.J.B. Anghie said that pubs in several five-star hotels had both smoking areas and non-smoking areas as in the case of airports which had smoking areas, yet in the case of the hotels (with pubs) and restaurants, they served food in smoking areas which were subsequently declared as public areas.

“Food-serving personnel get exposed to second hand smoke and the same personnel serve, in certain cases, those in the non-smoking areas,” he observed.

“The Act does not specify that food cannot be served. This is a lacuna (loophole) in the Act. Nothing is being done by the government to change the Act yet. Elsewhere, apart from the need for awareness regarding cancer, there is a stigma associated with cancer in that people do not want to say that they have cancer. Every family has somebody with cancer,” he said.

Chairman, NATA, Dr. Palitha Abeykoon admitted there were shortcomings in the laws pertaining to smoking in public areas. Accordingly, smoking in closed rooms in hotels is prohibited while there could be separate smoking areas in a partially open place.

“However, the laws do not clearly define what a partially open or close place is. Therefore, we have made amendments in order to clearly define the law,” he said. He added that the amendments were at present with the Legal Draftsman.

According to Anghie, oral cancer caused by betel chewing, lung cancer caused by smoking, and breast and prostate cancer were some of the worst forms of the disease.