NATA board threatens to resign if Chinese cigarettes imported

The director board of the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) have threatened to resign if clearance is given to import Chinese cigarettes.

A statement from the Health Ministry said that NATA Chairperson Dr. Palitha Abeykoon had issued the warning to Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera.

“I am writing to you at the behest of the Board of Management of the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) to convey to you the Board’s concern regarding the plan to grant a license to import cigarettes from China. The Board further wanted me to inform you that if this were done, we would be reversing in one single move most of the gains we have made in preventing harm from tobacco over the past two decades. It would be an inappropriate decision that would have seriously negative health, economic and social consequences,” the letter said.

NATA noted that allowing the import of cigarettes from China will go against the policy of the Government to discourage smoking.

The Finance Ministry had proposed granting a licence to import cigarettes from China as most Chinese employed in Sri Lanka prefer the Chinese cigarette.

NATA notes there is very little practical scope for ensuring that the imported cigarettes will be made available only for the Chinese workers.

These workers comprise of only very insignificant proportion of the 1.5 million smokers in Sri Lanka. This will also open the possibility of imports from other countries such as India, as many more Indians than Chinese live and work in Sri Lanka. We are not aware of the terms and conditions of this licensing move but if the cigarettes that are imported can be retailed at prices less than that of the current brands in the market it will increase consumption, especially among the young,” NATA said.

Abeykoon says the Board of the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol is greatly concerned about the decision to grant a license to import cigarettes from China and urged the Finance Minister to reconsider the move. (Colombo Gazette)

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