Sri Lanka - flood of counterfeit cigarettes reduces the effectiveness of tobacco control program..

Prof. Fonseka..
October 31, 2010 - The diseases caused due to smoking kills 20,000 persons every year (population about 20 million), said Chairman of National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA). Prof. Carlo Fonseka. He said that trafficking of counterfeit cigarettes into the country has increased and it has become a big problem. Prof. Fonseka said that with this increase the number of smokers has also increased.

According to the latest WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2008, in Sri Lanka 29.9% of male and 2.5% of female adults are current smokers. According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey conducted in 2007, 5.1% youth (13 – 15 years) ever smoked tobacco cigarettes, 39.5% of them smoked cigarettes before age 10, 8.6% are current users of other tobacco products and 69.5% are exposed to second hand smoke in public places. (NATA-Bloomberg Project..)

"One-hundred million people died of smoking related diseases in the world in the last century, if this trend continues the death rate would increase to 1,000 million this century. Giving up smoking is the best way to avoid this unfortunate situation" the Prof. said.

Due to the efforts of the Government local cigarette consumption has declined sharply. Contrary to Government regulations a massive haul of illicit cigarette consignments is being brought into the country for sale at a low price. According to statistics 75 percent of counterfeit cigarettes are being smuggled to the country from Dubai, Prof. Fonseka said. He said that the tax income of the Government has also decreased due to trafficking of counterfeit cigarettes.

According to Customs Department statistics 245.3 million cigarettes were brought into the country in 2004, 82 million in 2005, 33.5 million in 2008 and 40 million in 2009, Prof. Fonseka said.

WHO may have a solution to the contraband problem..

Reference: Smoking kills 20,000 annually- NATA Chief by Mohammed Naalir, Sri Lanka's Sunday Observer, 10/31/2010.

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(contraband, black market, smuggling)