Joint Press Release: Raise Tobacco Tax and Save Health AND Economy of Sri Lanka

 
(23rd November 2020)
 
Tobacco prematurely kills 50% of its users and 20,000 Sri Lankans per year. It is also a major determinant of poverty at individual, household and community levels, contributing to the vicious cycles of under nutrition and lower economic productivity. The World Health Organization (WHO) has clearly indicated an association
between tobacco smoking and severe complications from COVID-19, including increasing risk for death. Thus, this is the opportune time for a “people-friendly” government to tighten up tobacco control measures not only to save its citizens from COVID-19, but also to prevent the diverse range of tobacco related health, economic and social adverse effects at individual, household and societal levels.
 
Raising tobacco tax is one of the six evidence-based strategies recommended under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the global treaty to control tobacco, to which Sri Lanka is a party from 2003. Even though it is one of the most under-utilised strategies, as evident in the budget proposals of this year, it is proven over and over again that raising tax is a powerful, effective and win-win strategy for governments because it not only protects its citizens from tobacco, but also increases the government tax revenue. According to a case study on Investments for Tobacco Control by National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol, FCTC, United Nation’s Development Programme and WHO Country Office for Sri Lanka in 2016, a rational increase of tobacco tax will yield a return-on-investment of 724 by 2030, in other words, each
rupee spent in raising tax will yield 724 rupees. A recent study by the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS), found that a science-backed four-staged increase of tobacco tax over the next four years (2020 – 2023) will increase government revenue by LKR 37 Billion, decrease tobacco smoking prevalence to less than
12.5% (from the current 18%) and save at least 141,391 Sri Lankans from premature death.
 
Therefore, we, advocates of public health and tobacco control in Sri Lanka, plead the Sri Lankan Government to employ an evidence-based rational tax policy, guided by sound health and economic fundamentals, to increase tobacco tax and reduce affordability of cigarettes, protecting our country and its citizens from COVID-19 and premature death.

This joint press release has been issued by ;

1. Ceylon College of Physicians – Sri Lanka’s premier professional organization for specialists in medicine

2. Sri Lanka College of Psychiatrists – The professional body of psychiatrists in Sri Lanka

3. Sri Lanka College of Pulmonologists – The professional body of chest specialists in Sri Lanka

4. Sri Lanka College of Community Physicians – The professional body of public health specialists in Sri Lanka

5. Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC) – The premier civil organization in alcohol, tobacco and drug prevention in Sri Lanka

6. Centre for Combating Tobacco – WHO-sanctioned tobacco industry observatory for Sri Lanka and South Asia

✯ Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama
President
Ceylon College of Physicians (CCP)
 
✯ Dr. Gihan Abeywardena
President
College of Psychiatrists, Sri Lanka
 
✯ Dr. Nandika Harischandra
President
College of Pulmonologists, Sri Lanka
 
✯ Dr. Anuji Gamage
Secretary
College of Community Physicians, Sri Lanka
 
✯ Pubudu Sumanasekara
Executive Director
Alcohol & Drug Information Centre (ADIC)
 
✯ Dr. Mahesh Rajasuriya
Director
Centre for Combating Tobacco (CCT)