Despite multiple measures by successive governments to bring down tobacco prevalence in Sri Lanka, still more than one in four males use tobacco. Reducing smoking prevalence is also identified as one of the concerns in the manifesto of the newly elected president of Sri Lanka. This blog argues that bringing down tobacco prevalence further will entail tightening tobacco control policies and initiating focused measures targeting difficult-to-reach groups.
Significant increases to tobacco taxes is the best means of controlling tobacco consumption. The high cost of tobacco dissuades new users, reduces consumption of current users, and discourages those who have quit smoking from restarting. Children and youth, particularly, respond positively to price increases in tobacco. This blog examines how Sri Lanka is faring against the global best practices and recommend policy reforms to strengthen tobacco control.
While the topic of tobacco control is mentioned in some of the main presidential candidates’ manifestos, it is uncertain whether they will honour the commitment made in 2017 to ban tobacco cultivation by next year. Since two third of the transition period of the proposed cultivation ban has already lapsed, it is unclear whether the shift from tobacco will be achieved by the end of 2020. Another concern is whether the 2019 presidential election will be an opportunity for lobby groups to convince policymakers to reverse the proposed ban. In such an uncertain policy environment, this blog examines the possibility of switching to alternative crops.
In the run up to elections, Sri Lanka is once again witnessing various news activities highlighting how the government is losing revenue due to increased consumption of illicit cigarettes and beedi. However, the wider government policy on tobacco control is aimed to reduce smoking rates and the related direct and indirect costs – which was estimated to amount to 6% of government revenue in 2015 – through taxation. This blog argues that although controlling the availability of illegal cigarettes in the market is important, this should be done through regulation so that both legal and illegal cigarette consumption remains low in the country.