President Maithripala Sirisena has pointed out that the Government will reach direct decisions on the Alcohol and Anti- Tobacco programme. He said that the matter on increasing the price of cigarettes will be immediately discussed at the Cabinet meeting. The President was speaking at a function held to mark World No-Tobacco Day.
The President referred to the difficulties he faced in the past in the enactment of laws that picture warnings in the cigarette pack should cover eighty percent. The President recalled how he had to directly response to heads of Tobacco Companies at meetings held at Temple Trees in the past. However, the President claimed that the cause of the poverty level increasing in the country and a majority of the poor falling sick was due to the use of tobacco and alcohol.
The President said that more than 500 million rupees was being spent per day in Sri Lanka on tobacco and alcohol. Low income groups was spending 35 percent of their earnings on tobacco and alcohol. As such this is the cause for increase in poverty and the deterioration of the health of the poor.
President Maithripala Sirisena mentioned that the Government was reaching clear decisions with respect to alcohol and tobacco.
The President claimed that in the past the Government took some direct decisions. One was to ban the cultivation of tobacco in the island by the year 2020. He has already instructed the Agrarian Services and the Agriculture Department to apprise tobacco cultivators on this decision. He announced that the Government would take upright decisions
Dr. Nishan de Mel who addressed the function pointed out that according to statistics the price of a cigarette should be increased considerably.
He said that the actual price is 35 rupees while the real price should have been 55 rupees. The tax has been reduced by around 67 percent. As such the Government is deprived of a colossal amount of its earnings this year.
Responding to the query raised by the doctor, the President emphasized that increasing the price of cigarettes would be immediately discussed at the Cabinet meeting.
The President said that at the Cabinet meeting today he would propose to take immediate action in this respect.
Expressing his views, Minister Rajitha Senaratne said that in the past they stage a war and also toppled a Government to set up a Pharmaceutical Authority and to cover the cigarette pack with pictorial warnings. Even the Supreme Court was approached by the previous regime to reduce the percentage of pictorial warning to 60 from 80 percent. He said the last election was the first poll in which the health issue figured prominently.
Prizes were awarded to winners of an island wide competition organized among school children parallel to the World No-Tobacco Day. Among those present were Ministers, Parliamentarians and state officials.