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WHO praises Lanka's attempts at curtailing alcohol and tobacco use

2013 Jul 12

By Don Asoka Wijewardena    

World Health Organization Country Director Dr. F. R. Mehta said that Sri Lanka’s Health Minister’s dauntless efforts to curtail alcohol and tobacco use were admired by the WHO. The WHO had studied that the root cause of rural poverty was the consumption of alcohol and smoking. A comprehensive study conducted by the WHO with the assistance of the Health Ministry had revealed that 50 per cent of rural population, especially the people who were eking out a living by doing odd jobs, were addicted to liquor and smoking.

Dr. Mehta pointed out that the Sri Lankan government’s initiative to alleviate poverty of rural people and the rest by imposing pictorial cancer warnings on packets of cigarettes was a far-sighted commitment. Sri Lanka was the first country in South East Asia to take that bold decision. Sri Lanka had sought technical assistance and guidance from the WHO to bring in legislation to print pictorial warnings, Dr. Mehta said at a conference held with Health Minister Sirisena at the WHO Sri Lanka office recently.

 Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena said that the WHO had been assisting the government, especially the health sector to prevent many diseases. It had been instrumental in providing all the required technical assistance and guidance to improve the health sector of the country. He had requested the WHO to provide more assistance in modern technology to improve the sector. It was his brainchild to stipulate that 80 per cent of cigarette packaging should contain pictorial warnings on oral cancer. It was greatly appreciated by the WHO.

 Minister Sirisena enjoyed an art work created by a patient at Angoda Mental Institute hung at the WHO office.   

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