'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
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.