Launch of the South Asian Regional Consortium Centre for Combating Tobacco (SARC-CCT)

‘’Tobacco is the only legally available consumer product which kills people when used entirely as intended.’’ The tobacco industry is a global entity. Tobacco industry is known for their interference and influence of public and governments. It also includes a wide range of supporting consultancies specializing in such areas as marketing, legal services and lobbying.They need to make sure that people smoke more to ensure their sustenance as a profit-making venture. They use many tactics to engage new users, especially children and youth. Individual countries find it difficult to know how to respond to an industry that sells a product that is highly addictive hazardous to health.

The global response to this global problem has been the Framework Convention (FCTC) on Tobacco Control of the World Health Organisation which had 181 parties as of 2019. This agreement is important in protecting the present and future generations from the destructive health, social and economic consequences due to the tobacco burden. FCTC was adopted as an answer to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic. The expansion of the tobacco epidemic increased due to factors beyond the control of a single country; such as trade liberalization, direct foreign investments, global marketing, transnational tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and international movement of contraband and counterfeit cigarettes. A very important key article in the FCTC is Article 5.3. The article 5.3 of FCTC mandates that member countries, in development and execution of their tobacco-related public health policies such as tobacco tax, “should act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.” The first step in fulfilling article 5.3 is to monitor the activities of the tobacco industry driven by their “commercial and other interests” that would interfere with tobacco control, activities that would manipulate the policies of the country in order to promote tobacco use.

Centre for Combating Tobacco (CCT) is the Sri Lankan tobacco observatory hosted by the Faculty of Medicine University of Colombo under the Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The aim of the CCT is to monitor the tobacco industry activities related to implementation of Article 5.3 in Sri Lanka. Since its inception on October 2016, CCT has been monitoring the tobacco industry for nearly three years in Sri Lanka. Through our investigative research on industry activities, we have learned that tobacco industry interference in public health policies and control actions is a huge challenge not only for Sri Lanka but also for South Asian countries.Therefore CCT has taken a revolutionary decision to expand the tobacco industry observatory to incorporate all South Asian countries.

South Asian Regional Consortium Centre for Combating Tobacco (SARC-CCT) is the tobacco observatory for the South Asia Region. CCT provides technical expertise for the project and acts as the coordinating body in development and maintenance of the Centre. International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union)  generously funded this project.  Organisations engaged in tobacco control and tobacco industry monitoring from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan are partnering for the SARC-CCT, generating a virtual network of tobacco industry monitoring in the region.

On 15th July 2019 Chief Guest the Vice-Chancellor of University of Colombo, Professor Chandrika N Wijeyaratne officially launched the SARC-CCT with the participation  of distinguished guests, local implementation partners, global, regional and local stakeholders in tobacco control and well-wishers at the Galle Face Hotel. The Chairman of the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA), Dr. Palitha

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