Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC) and the Center for Combating Tobacco (CCT), Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo jointly organized the Symposium on Grass Root Level Actions to Control Tobacco / Alcohol and to Counter Industry Interference, on the 19th of September 2017 at the New Building Lecture Theatre, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo. This is the first time that community symposium organised on alcohol and tobacco prevention activities in Sri Lanka.
Professor Jennifer Perera – Dean of Faculty of Medicine, UOC delivered the welcome speech and Dr. Mahesh Rajasuriya –Director of CCT and Ms. Hiruni Wijesuriya – Lead Reporter, CCT presented some evidence- based tobacco industry tactics and how such strategies are being ‘unmasked’ through CCT.
The chief guest of the event Dr. Palitha Abeykoon –Chairman of the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol stated the importance of community power and urged everyone to lit small ‘community fires’ until they become a mass energy that could bring vast changes.
Dr. Samantha Kumara Kithalawaarachchi – Director of the Presidential Task Force on Drug Prevention expressed how fortunate Sri Lankans are to have a President who combats against alcohol, tobacco and other drugs with a true passion and the responsibility of a community to take the maximum benefit under such a leader.
The Director of the Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other drugs Mr. Hakan Leaifman taking examples from the Swedish context said that Sri Lanka should pay attention to the new trends of the alcohol industry, such as promoting alcohol consumption to women. And he highlighted that Alcohol use and tobacco both declining in Europe and according to research done there is no trend that people are shifting to other drugs too.
Dr. Diyanath Samarasinghe, providing closing comments, referred to the incredible enthusiasm and interest that every participant had showed throughout the day. He emphasized the need to use the abstract book as a manual that everyone could use, for ideas on what further they could do. The hope now was to see these initiatives spread widely.
Mr. Pubudu Sumanasekara – the Executive Director of ADIC delivered the vote of thanks saying that this symposium fills the gap in our country where we lack the opportunities to hear the voice of grassroots level mobilizers in the field of alcohol and tobacco control.
25 oral presentations and 57 poster presentations submitted under 06 themes which were selected through a scientific committee consisted of professionals in the field were presented by community members from various parts of the country.
This symposium was a simple reward mechanism that could help to drive the individuals, community groups, community based organizations, activists, students and other stakeholders to continue drug prevention work in their areas. It was an ideal platform to discuss the latest and innovative interventions methodologies carried out by the communities in the field of alcohol and tobacco control within their social milieu. The successful stories presented at the symposium would enrich the knowledge and skills and encourage all those who strive to achieve the same goal in their respective societies.