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'Smoke-free' legislation on back-burner

Health authorities dragging their feet:

New legislation to ensure 100 percent smoke free public and work places has faced snags due to official delays.

Several organizations which are in the forefront of the country's Anti-Tobacco campaign yesterday charged that the proposed 100 percent smoke free legislation in the form of amendments to the National Authority on Tobacco an Alcohol (NATA) Act, submitted to authorities several months back were still pending.

NATA officials state that the delay in making amendments is not on their part. NATA officials had made their recommendations for amendments to the Health Ministry several months back.

The new amendments after getting the nod from the Attorney General's Department has to be passed by Parliament with a simple majority.

NATA states that it has taken more than five months since submission of their recommendations to the relevant authorities and they haven't got a favourable reply as yet.

When contacted, Health Ministry Secretary Dr T.R.C. Ruberu said he needs more days to look into the matter.

In addition the head of Jeevaka Foundation (an organization which has been in the country's anti-tobacco campaign for a long period) Manjari Peiris states that authorities so far has failed to enforce regulations relating to publishing pictorial warnings on product packagings.

According to her it is not an amendment, but a regulation which the authorities is bound to implement as Sri Lanka is a Party to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and they are already several years behind right now.

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which is the world's first global public health treaty, establishes a policy framework aimed to reduce the devastating health and economic impacts of tobacco. Article 11 of the FCTC requires parties to the FCTC to implement effective measures to warn against the harmful impact of tobacco use on all tobacco product packaging within three years after ratifying the FCTC implementation of a pictorial warning label policy presents no financial cost to governments; fees are borne by tobacco companies.

Since the present regime led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa assumed Office there has been high political commitment to tobacco control in the country. The country was the first in the South-East Asia Region to ratify the WHO FCTC. It enacted a Tobacco Control Act in 2006 for comprehensive tobacco control and established NATA to implement the Act.

Sri Lanka's Current National Tobacco and Alcohol Regulations prohibit smoking in any enclosed public place except (a) hotels, guest houses or lodges with 30 rooms or more; (b) restaurants or clubs with a seating capacity of 30 or more people; (c) airports subject to allocating a separate place with adequate ventilation for smoking conforming to the prescribed air quality standards.

In addition both direct and indirect advertising/promotions and sponsorship of all tobacco/alcohol products is banned.

 

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