NATA to amend Act, claiming over 50% want cigarettes banned

  • Conducts survey of 1,000 persons, majority male
  • 72.4% respondents want 180ml alcohol bottles banned

By Pamodi Waravita

The National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) is planning on amending the NATA Act No. 27 of 2006, based on a public survey conducted by them which has shown that 65% of respondents support the ban of the sale of single stick cigarettes, while over 50% of respondents do not believe that cigarettes should be legal in the country.

“In the 15 years since the NATA was established, a public survey was conducted for the first time recently. This survey would help us immensely in amending the NATA Act and presenting our stance to the policymakers. When we questioned in the survey as to whether the sale of single stick cigarettes needed to be banned, 65% of the respondents said yes,” NATA Chairman Dr. Samadhi Rajapaksa said at a press conference held yesterday (15) at the Health Promotion Bureau (HPB).

“Similarly, 72.4% respondents have supported the ban of the 180 millilitre (ml) bottle of alcohol (quarter bottle). Furthermore, 66.5% of the respondents stated that their basic human rights are violated if somebody smokes in front of them, and only 47.5% of the respondents have stated that it should be accepted as a legal product in the future.”

Dr. Rajapaksa further said that 95% of the respondents have said that cigarette smoking and the consumption of alcohol should be banned in public and that both cigarettes and alcohol should not be sold within 500 metres (m) of schools. Also, 80% of the respondents have supported the implementation of mandatory health advice being printed outside alcohol boxes as well.

Responding to media questions on whether the survey paints an accurate picture of the opinions of all socio-economic classes in Sri Lanka, Dr. Rajapaksa assured that the survey had been conducted in two steps; through a Google form via the internet and through a physically printed copy of the survey which has been distributed throughout the country.

“Over 1,000 respondents have participated in this survey. Out of the respondents, 62% were men, over 40% of the respondents were between the ages of 17-30 years, and 30% of the respondents had been smokers. We have not written down the education levels of all the respondents but it covered everybody from high school graduates to undergraduates. It is said that when the quarter bottle is banned, the sale of beer bottles may increase. Similarly, there is a myth that when you increase the prices of cigarettes, the use of beedi increases. However, studies have shown that this is not so. The quarter bottle also affects our agricultural industry and environment, as they are thrown into the paddy fields after consumption. That is why we must somehow stop this quarter bottle,” said Dr. Rajapaksa.

The 2022 Budget which was presented in the Parliament last week stated that the price of a cigarette will increase by Rs. 5, while it was also proposed to increase the excise tax.