Non-communicable diseases – primarily caused by poor eating habits and inactive lifestyles – claim the largest number of Sri Lankan lives, accounting for 83% of all deaths, compared to a global average of 71%. This blog takes a look at how food environments influence eating habits and highlights the need for examining and regulating Sri Lanka’s food environment to combat the NCD epidemic. Some best practice country examples which could help inform the policy agenda in Sri Lanka are also discussed.
At a juncture when government finances are tight, policy solutions such as taxing tobacco which can be leveraged to boost government revenue, without threatening economic growth, are essential. However, Sri Lanka’s 2021 Budget does not specify any tax increases on cigarettes. Instead, it proposes a simplification of taxes across a variety of sin goods and other goods. Details on how such a complex proposal is to be implemented across an array of industries are yet to be revealed. This blog dissects some of these issues pertaining to cigarette tax proposals in Budget 2021.
While Sri Lanka has made notable strides in recent times to reduce the overall smoking rate, smoking continues to remain a significant health threat. A challenge for Sri Lanka now is to identify the groups where smoking prevalence is highly concentrated – referred to as ‘Last Mile Smokers’ (LMS) – and implement policy measures that are specifically designed to reduce smoking among LMS.
Sri Lanka is experiencing a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and cities and urban centres have become the hotspots of vulnerability. With their relatively favourable economic conditions and extensive transport networks, cities attract migrants from rural areas, frequently resulting in overcrowding and greater vulnerability to external shocks such as COVID-19. Hence, strengthening resilience of cities and urban settlements to meet health emergencies is a critical part of the national response strategy to pandemics. This blog explains why cities should be focal points of pandemic response planning, and discusses ways to build pandemic resilience in Sri Lanka’s urban areas.
A recent study by IPS projects that government tax revenue can be boosted by LKR 37 billion by 2023, if taxes on cigarettes are streamlined and raised in line with inflation. Although the government assumed a policy stance of cutting taxes across the board when they came into power, excise taxation of sin-goods such as cigarettes is one area where it is still politically feasible to raise taxes in order to boost much needed revenue. This month’s budget is therefore an opportune moment to increase tobacco taxation, which will simultaneously help raise revenue at a critical time for the country, and generate significant and positive health benefits that would flow from reducing smoking.