There are still irregularities in tobacco taxation in Sri Lanka. The 2018 draft bill to ban single stick sales was not approved and the finance minister later revealed the objection was because it may reduce the tax revenue due to reduced cigarette sales and switching to beedi. The Ministry of Finance continues to have baseless reasonings which raises the suspicion that there may be tobacco industry influence, though direct participation in policy development cannot be ascertained.
However, pictorial health warnings are already in place for 80% of the pack with tar and nicotine content. Introduction of plain packaging received cabinet approval but has delays due to administrative causes unrelated to industry interference.
The Sustainable Agriculture Development Programme (SADP), the main CSR activity, has funds and resources allocated to sustain itself until 2019. Though there is no publicly available data on SADP involving government officials, there are other CSR activities like a tree planting program which has government official involvement.
The finance minister’s proposal to allow cigarette imports from China faced considerable backlash from the health minister and concerned parties. The health minister wrote to the prime minister saying he would tender his resignation from the cabinet and that the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) chairman and the board of directors would resign. Amidst the strong opposition, the finance minister withdrew his plans to allow Chinese cigarettes.
Smuggled cigarettes confiscated by Sri Lanka customs were destroyed with the support of Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) in the CTC warehouse. Also, in another instance, the CTC CEO/MD took part in destroying illicit cigarettes confiscated by the officers of the Sri Lanka Customs’ Central Investigation Bureau.
Interactions with the tobacco industry are not disclosed publicly. The government does not require registration of tobacco industry entities, affiliated organizations or individuals acting on its behalf including lobbyists.
The government does not prohibit contributions to political parties from the tobacco industry or any entity working to further its interests. There were instances where people who worked with the tobacco industry joined government positions. The government doesn’t specify a period of non-involvement to persons previously employed by the tobacco industry. Also, Sri Lanka has a lack of campaign finance laws thus candidates or parties are not required to disclose information on the funds spent on their campaigns or donations received.
The government has not put in place a procedure for disclosing the records of the interaction with the tobacco industry. NATA has developed a guideline to implement WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Article 5.3, although it isn’t currently being implemented. There is a code of conduct for public officials, prescribing the standards with which they should comply in their dealings with the tobacco industry. However, there is no procedure to report lobbying, philanthropy and political contributions. Government officials are not restricted from taking part in events sponsored by the tobacco industry.
- Implement a full ban on all forms of tobacco industry-related CSR activities as required in the FCTC.
- Implement procedures for interaction with the tobacco industry and disclose all records of interaction with it.
- Awareness programs on Article 5.3 should be conducted regularly for government officials.
- There should be exit policy term limits for retired government officials for five years so that they do not join the tobacco industry immediately, and a cooling-off period for former tobacco industry executives who want to serve in public office.
Learn more about tobacco industry interference in this country.Download a Country Fact Sheet