Despite the commendable efforts by the Ministry of Health and Presidential Task Force to implement strong tobacco control measures, there has been strong opposition from the Ministry of Finance (MoF). Some issues raised by the officials from the MoF suggest they depend on industry arguments for decision-making over scientific evidence and data. The opposition from the MoF on tobacco control has resulted in a favorable year for the industry in 2018.
There is no publicly available record of government officials participating in CSR activities in 2018. In 2018, Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC) made donations worth 32 million rupees (USD $180,760) towards CSR activities.
Several proposed tobacco control measures such as the ban on cigarette sales within 100 meters of schools, the ban on single stick sale, introduction of plain packaging and the ban on tobacco cultivation, were not implemented for more than a year after being proposed. Additionally, the MoF has given permission for more operators to import cigarettes into Sri Lanka.
Senior ministers took part in an event headed by the CEO of CTC. There have been several instances where the CEO of CTC, who is also the Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), met senior government officials through events organized by AmCham. Smuggled cigarettes confiscated by Sri Lanka customs are destroyed at the crushing unit of the CTC.
Interactions with the tobacco industry are not disclosed publicly. The government does not require registration of tobacco industry entities, affiliated organizations and individuals acting on their behalf, including lobbyists.
The government does not prohibit contributions to political parties from the tobacco industry or any entity working to further its interests. Dinesh Weerakkody (former Executive Director of CTC) is an advisor to the Prime Minister and to the Ministry of National Policy and Economic Affairs (MNPEA). He serves as the Chairman of the National Human Resource Development Council of Sri Lanka, a public entity which comes under the MNPEA. However, Weerakkody resigned from CTC in July 2018.
The government does not have a procedure in place for disclosing the records of any interaction with the tobacco industry, nor has it adopted a code of conduct for officials to guide them in their interactions with the tobacco industry. While there is no sustained program to consistently raise awareness on Article 5.3 within government departments, the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol has initiated the development of a plan to implement Article 5.3 in 2019.
Tobacco production, imports and the quantum of manufactured cigarettes must be disclosed for taxation purposes. However, there is no procedure to report lobbying, philanthropy and political contributions. While there is a general code of conduct for government officials to restrict acceptance of gifts and contributions for their service, this does not restrict government officials from taking part in events or study visits sponsored by the tobacco industry.
- Policies regulating tobacco must put health as a priority and be based on evidence to avoid interference from the tobacco industry.
- Implement a full ban on all forms of tobacco-related CSR activities as recommended in the FCTC.
- The government must implement a procedure for interactions with the tobacco industry and disclose all records of interaction. They must also adopt a code of conduct for officials when dealing with the tobacco industry.
- Awareness programs on FCTC Article 5.3 should be conducted regularly for government officials and ministers.
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