Sri Lanka: Support for decision on pictorial warnings

July 23, 2012

National Cancer Hospital (NCH), Medical Officer Dr. Samadhi Rajapaksa yesterday hailed the Government’s reassurance of printing ‘Pictorial Health Warnings’ on cigarette packets to discourage Sri Lankans from smoking cigarettes and to save around 20,000 people from cancer-related illnesses every year.

Speaking to the Sunday Observer, Dr. Rajapaksa also welcomed the Government’s decision of strictly banning smoking at public places, including in public transport and places of entertainment.

He also cautioned non-smokers to move away from places where people are smoking and warned parents to protect their children from second-hand smoking as it too causes lung cancer, heart disease, sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight and serious respiratory conditions.

Dr. Rajapaksa lamented that 80 percent of patients, currently seeking admission in the NCH suffer from tobacco-related diseases.

The time has come to educate smokers on the negative side of smoking, he said. He said cigarettes contain 4,000 harmful substances of which 40 percent have a direct impact on cancer.

He quoted examples from countries such as Canada, Malaysia, India, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore and stressed that pictorial health warnings on tobacco products are the most influential modes in communicating the risks of tobacco use to users.

Dr. Rajapaksa said one third of Sri Lankan males are smokers while a few females from affluent classes too are in the habit of smoking.

He said according to the World Health Organization, tobacco kills more than five million people every year.

One tobacco death occurs every six seconds.

Tobacco killed 100 million people in the 20th Century and if preventable measures are not taken it could kill one billion in the 21st Century. Dr. Rajapaksa thanked the head of Jeewaka Foundation Manjari Peiris, who conducts regular workshops countrywide to educate people on the negative side of smoking in collaboration with the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol against smoking.

Source: Sunday Observer (July 22, 2012)