Networking forum for University Undergraduates

A series of advocacy sessions on Tobacco Industry Impact on Public Health and Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Article 5.3 targeting the university undergraduates in Sri Lanka was initiated on 23rd June 2019. The first session, held at the training room of the Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC), was organized by a group of undergraduates currently working as volunteers with the Centre for Combating Tobacco (CCT) to empower their peers in state university science stream faculties of the Western Province.. Undergraduates from the Faculties of Medicine of Universities of Colombo, Kelaniya and Sri Jawardanapura, Faculty of Physical Sciences of University of Colombo, and Faculty of Engineering, University of Moratuwa attended the program.

Mr. Asiri Karunanayake from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya welcomed the participants and explained the objectives of the programme.  Dr. Mahesh Rajasuriya, Director, CCT moderated a discussion about the Industry’s impact on substance use and public health and direct and indirect promotion strategies used by the industries. Dr. Manuja perera, the Editor/ TobaccoUnmasked discussed about the Tobacco industry interference in Sri Lanka, FCTC Article 5.3 and current activities by CCT to monitor tobacco industry interference on public health and implementation of FCTC Article 5.3 in Sri Lanka.

The first elective students of the CCT, Ms. Malsha Jayasooriya and Mr. Sohan Anjana, from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo shared their experiences on investigative reporting based on the TobaccoUnmasked (TU) post developed by them during their elective. Following that, Ms. Hiruni Wijesuriya from the CCT described about the TU website (www.tobaccounmasked.lk) and how the participants can contribute to develop and disseminate TU posts.

Ms. Hiruni Thilakaratne and Mr. Dinidu Pasan from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya shared the findings from their research project on “Tobacco, Alcohol and other Drug Promotions via Facebook in Sri Lanka”, improving participants’ awareness on the extent of the problem. The mobile application developed by the CCT to monitor tobacco industry promotions, interferences and other activities, “TU HotSpots” was introduced to the participants by Ms. Chinthika Perera and the TU team.

A discussion on networking and establishment of action committees to support CCT activities was moderated by Dr. Mahesh Rajasuriya and Dr. Manuja Perera. Participants volunteered to join CCT activities as “TUHotSpots Reporters” “TUHotSpots Ambassadors” and “TU freelance writers”.

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