Health agencies unite to condemn promotion of cinnamon cigarettes

Thursday, 25 March 2021 00:22 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • NATA Chairman seeks clarity from Attorney General
  • GMOA writes to Minister on policy position
  • No approval given, says Excise and Ayurveda Departments

Several State institutions affiliated to the Ministry of Health, trade unions and professional bodies led by the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) stated the purported locally-manufactured ‘Ayurvedic’ cinnamon cigarette is a violation of existing laws and underscored the serious health risks posed by such products to public health, especially children. 

Addressing a media briefing yesterday, NATA Chairman Dr. Samadhi Rajapakse said his agency had previously written to the manufacturer apprising of this position. The company had responded that it had received necessary approval from several State agencies including the Intellectual Property Office, Ministry of Industries, Department of Excise, Export Development Board, Consumer Affairs of Authority and others. 

Dr. Rajapakse said NATA had written to all these agencies stating the existing legal position of the land. The Commissioner General of Excise had responded that no such authority had been granted to such a product, which was also the position of the Department of Ayurveda, adding no application or approval had been made to use the term ‘Ayurveda’ for this product. 

The NATA Chairman expressed concern that a Cabinet Minister seen promoting the product may be unaware of the prevailing law and health concerns posed, adding his institution would challenge any measures to amend regulations in this regard. The WHO and several international agencies have already expressed concern with respect to this product and the recent development, he added. 

NATA has referred the matter to the Attorney General for advice on future action, whilst the agency has also informed the Inspector General of Police and Department of Excise with regard to enforcement of the law.

Joining the discussion, Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) Secretary Dr. Harith Aluthge said his organisation had written to the Health Minister to clarify her position on this matter, as it concerned the policy position of the Ministry of Health. He added the Minister should discuss the matter with the Cabinet as these developments challenged the existing law of the land. Dr. Aluthge noted the term ‘locally-made’ must not be cheapened by promoting harmful products to society. 

Government Ayurvedic Doctors’ Association Chairman Dr. Prasad Hendawitharana said there was no concept of Ayurvedic cigarettes in traditional medicine, nor had any approval been obtained to use the term ‘Ayurveda’ for this product. He added that no person could misuse the term ‘Ayurveda’ and that his association would cooperate with relevant parties to institute legal action against it, as no application had been made by the company.

Also present at the occasion, former NATA Chairman Dr. Palitha Abeykoon rejected claims that he had provided his blessings for the cinnamon cigarette project and said he had informed the manufacturers that this product was illegal. 

Dr. Rajapakse remarked the tobacco industry was struggling as tobacco smoking incidence has dropped as low as 16% in Sri Lanka due to the sustained efforts of the agency, which had been recognised by the World Health Organization through the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. 

There was concern expressed that Sri may might lose its position as a country leading action against tobacco consumption. 

Sri Lanka Medical Association President Dr. Padma Gunarathna, Ministry of Health Mental Health Director Dr. Rohan Rathnayake, National Hospital Resident Consultant in Respiratory Medicine Dr. Geethal Perera, the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board and other agencies joined the discussion to condemn this move to manufacture and promote cinnamon cigarettes in Sri Lanka. 

The measure will promote tobacco smoking and the smoking habit in general, which is extremely hazardous to human health, they reiterated.