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Wide support for Tobacco and Alcohol Authority proposal

Several leading religious dignitaries, human rights organisations and civil society organisations yesterday expressed their support to the proposal to establish a National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol.

A Private Members Motion in this connection has been submitted to Parliament by Ven. Dr. Omalpe Sobitha Thera of JHU.

Proponents of the bill say it seeks to limit tobacco and alcohol advertising to minimise their harmful effects on children and the younger generation. The National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol will have a legal mandate to control the drug and alcohol menace.

The Lawyers for Human Rights and Development yesterday announced at a press conference held in Colombo that it will extend its full support to the Bill. The press conference was held at Dharmavijaya Foundation, Colombo 7.

Officials of the Sri Lanka Temperance Council, Swarna Hansa Foundation, and Dharmavijaya Foundation also declared their support to the proposed Act. Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera, who was also present, said the legislation was a timely need.

Executive Director of the Lawyers for Human Rights, Dr. Kalyananda Thriranagama said that the Act was seeking to protect children from the drugs menace.

"It seeks to restrict the use of advertisements to sell alcoholic beverages and cigarettes," he said. "It is by means of false propaganda that these breweries and tobacco companies sell their stuff. Someone has to take the initiative to stop their operations before it can become a cancer," he said.

"Alcohol and tobacco kill a person slowly and it is on the principle that no one can compel others to commit suicide that we have committed ourselves to support the Act," he added. Ven. Sobhitha Thera said the country and its leaders have a responsibility to create a healthy society and tobacco and alcohol disturb the system.

"By having a National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol we may be able to regulate things for the better, " said the thera.

As pointed out by the panel 83 per cent of Sri Lankan tobacco was in the hands of foreign traders and it was they who earn funds through this business at a time when smoking has decreased in European countries. They noted that 12 petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court against the proposed bill by tobacco and alcohol retailers, producers and importers.

Over thirty per cent of Sri Lankans smoke and 17,000 of them die every year owing to smoking-related diseases.

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