April 5, 2011 - The National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) has stated that the agency was going to closely advise the government and tobacco industry on implementing the Tobacco and Alcohol Act (Sri Lanka - NATA to advise government and tobacco industry..)
Authorities are set to introduce new legislation to ensure 100 percent smoke free public and work places shortly. They are also planning to enforce regulations relating to publishing pictorial warnings on tobacco product packagings to discourage smoking, especially among youth.
The new legislation would come into force as soon as the authorities ratify the amendments to the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) Act, NATA Chairman Prof Carlo Fonseka said.
According to Prof Fonseka, the proposed amendments to the NATA Act which would enforce the above are with the Legal Draftsman of the Health Ministry.
Prof Fonseka expects that the proposals would be ratified by the authorities shortly.
Sri Lanka’s Current National Tobacco and Alcohol Regulations prohibit smoking in any enclosed public place except hotels, guest houses or lodges with 30 rooms or more; restaurants or clubs with a seating capacity of 30 or more people; and airports subject to allocating a separate place with adequate ventilation for smoking conforming to the prescribed air quality standards.
According to Prof Fonseka, NATA has proposed to delete the word ‘enclosed’ to prohibit smoking totally in all public and work places.
Public Health authorities worldwide have concluded that there is no safe level in secondhand smoke exposure.
Secondhand smoke has proved to cause lung cancer, heart disease, sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight and serious respiratory conditions. Scientific evidence is clear that the only effective way to protect workers and the public from secondhand smoke is to enact 100 percent smoke-free laws in all indoor work places and public places, according to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control FCTC.
NATA has also proposed to enforce Article (11) under their agreement with the FCTC which stipulates the inclusion of pictorial warnings in all tobacco packaging material. Sri Lanka which is a Party to the FCTC was the first Asian country which ratified FCTC.
At least 40 countries including India and Thailand belonging to South East Asia have finalized requirements for (Article 11), picture warnings.
Many other countries’ judiciaries are in the process of doing so or have stated that picture warnings are under consideration.
Although Parties to the Convention are required to implement Article 11 within three years from the date of Convention entering into force (the Convention entered into force on February 27, 2005), Sri Lanka has not been able to implement Article 11 up to date.
However, since the present regime led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa assumed Office there has been high political commitment towards 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.
The proposed amendments to the NATA Act are expected to further strengthen its efforts at discouraging smoking among the public.
Reference: Puffers smoked out", free public, work places, No safe level in secondhand smoke exposure, pictorial warnings in all tobacco packaging material, Rasika Somarathna, Daily News, 4/4/2011.
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