Next humanitarian mission:
Lanka drug-free by 2015
President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the Government would do its utmost
to reach the goal of eradicating the menace of drugs from Sri Lanka by
2015 at a function held at the Presidential Secretariat to coincide with
International No Tobacco Day tomorrow.
President Rajapaksa identified, saving the country’s youth from the
perils of the drug menace as his next ‘humanitarian mission’, following
the success of the earlier one in which the Nation triumphed over
“I will be dedicated to the task of totally eradicating the drug
menace from Sri Lanka, as pledged in my election manifesto Mahinda
Chinthana,” the President said launching the District Tobacco Control
Cells program at the Presidential Secretariat.
The National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol, with their new
initiative expects to reach out to all corners of the country more
effectively, in enhancing the impact of its ‘health warnings’ due to
drug abuse, on society.
Referring to his election manifesto Mahinda Chinthana, the President
pointed out that while achieving peace with dignity occupied the 13th
chapter, achieving a country free of drugs, alcohol and tobacco abuse
was given the number one position.
“Thus, at the outset we identified eradicating this menace as a
priority in our efforts to rebuild “a new Sri Lanka”, he said.
“In our endeavour to achieve this goal, we never bowed down under
pressure, we brought new acts, laws. Also we took steps to prohibit
consumption of alcohol and cigarettes in common public places”.
“In addition we banned the sale of such products to under-aged
children. The number of new licences issued to liquor outlets were
curtailed,” the President added.
The President also noted that although these measures had curtailed
Government earnings to a large extent as taxes on tobacco and alcohol
was one of the biggest contributors to State coffers, the Government led
by him had not thought twice on imposing restrictions, which would
ultimately benefit the people.
During his speech, the President also observed that similar to the
threat of terrorism the most affected group in the country due to the
abuse of drugs was children and women.
The President thanked all stakeholders contributing to the cause of
realizing alcohol, drugs and tobacco abuse-free Sri Lanka.
Healthcare and Nutrition Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva said
Government assistance will be accorded to voluntary organizations
operating counselling centers to rescue and rehabilitate those addicted
to alcohol, drugs and smoking.
Towards this aim, Model Rehabilitation Centers will be set up by the
Government covering the entire island,” he added.
He said new amendments would be brought to the existing Tobacco and
Alcohol Act. No.27 of 2006. New regulations would be introduced to
empower the law. Also international assistance and financing would be
sought to streamline the awareness process, he added.
The National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol established in 2007
will provide necessary leadership towards achieving these objectives, he
Tobacco killed 100 million in the 20th century across the globe
according to WHO.
Unless urgent action is taken current global tobacco epidemic could
kill 1000 million in the 21st century.
Tobacco use in Sri Lanka is the second largest cause of all deaths
and disabilities. According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey conducted
in 2007, 5.1% youth (13-15 years old) ever smoke cigarettes, 39.5% of
them smoked cigarettes before age 10, 8.6% are current users of other
tobacco products, 65.9% are exposed to secondhand smoke in public
There is high political commitment to tobacco control in Sri Lanka
The country was the first in the South-East Asia Region to ratify the
WHO FCTC. The country enacted a Tobacco Control Act in 2006 for
comprehensive tobacco control and established NATA to implement the Act.
However, strong enforcement and overall implementation of the Act has
not yet been fully achieved. Institutional and functional capacity of
NATA and other relevant national agencies need to be strengthened so
that the Act may be applied to reducing the disease burden caused by
tobacco and alcohol.
The President officially launched the NATA website