Ceremony on World No Tobacco Day 2017 Award to National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol, Sri Lanka

23 November 2017, Colombo, Sri Lanka

H.E. President Sirisena, Honourable Minister Dr Senaratne, Dr Palitha Abeykoon, ladies and gentlemen

My sincere appreciation and felicitations to NATA (National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol) on receiving this prestigious award.

Tobacco, a deadly product, kills more than 7 million people each year; it costs the global economy more than US$ 1.4 trillion annually due to increased healthcare expenditure and lost productivity.

Sri Lanka has made strong progress on tobacco control and the many awards received by the country bear testimony to the fact.

And yet, nearly 29% of males use some form of smokeless and smoked tobacco while 5.3% females use some form of smokeless tobacco and far lesser number, around 0.1 currently smoke tobacco.

Tobacco continues to place a heavy burden on Sri Lanka’s health system costing the country about Rs 89.37 billion in health care and other direct and indirect costs.

The war on tobacco is still on! Without Tobacco control, the Sustainable Development Goal’s target of reducing premature deaths from Noncommunicable Diseases by one-third by 2030 cannot be met.

The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC): the world’s only health treaty till date, is dedicated to ending the global tobacco epidemic. In November 2003, Sri Lanka became the fourth country in the world to ratify the WHO FCTC.

Each year, WHO recognises individuals or organisations in each of the six WHO Regions for their accomplishments in the area of tobacco control.

His Excellency President, Mr Maithripala Sirisena and Hon. Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, Dr Rajitha Senaratne received the World No Tobacco Award in the year 2013 and 2015 in recognition of their political commitment and leadership.

This year NATA has been awarded the World No Tobacco Day Award for the exemplary work on tobacco control in Sri Lanka including but not limited to:

  • Working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) to address the Illicit Trade on Tobacco Products. On 8 February 2016, Sri Lanka became the first country in the WHO South-East Asia Region to accede to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, which is part of the FCTC.
  • Research on affordability of cigarettes and study on the economic harms of tobacco and alcohol use Sri Lanka in partnership with WHO and Sri Lanka Medical association that provided the necessary evidence for the subsequent tax increase in April.

I commend the leadership of H.E. President Maithripala and Honourable Minister Dr Senaratne for their continued political commitment and the tireless work of Team NATA led by Dr Palitha Abeykoon, who has been very committed to the cause, and many individuals within the MOH, institutions and community based organizations who continue the fight against Tobacco.

Sri Lanka continues to lead the way in the region on ensuring right to health and this Award is a recognition of the high priority accorded to health by the country for its citizens.

Thank you.