Violation of Cigarette Pack Regulations

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This post is a result of a joint investigation conducted by Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC) Sri Lanka and the TobaccoUnmasked team.

Back ground

A new cigarette pack which contains only two cigarettes was seen in the market in October 2018.

The pack was reported on social media on 12th October 2018 on two individual profiles as a Facebook story (Image 1) and a WhatsApp status (Image 2).

Image 1: The new Cigarette pack reported by an individual as a story on his Facebook profile [1]
Image 2: The new Cigarette pack reported by an individual as a status of his WhatsApp profile [2]

The new Cigarette Pack

Image 3: The new cigarette pack bought by the TobaccoUnmasked team from a shop in Colombo 05
We purchased the cigarette pack shown in image 3 through a decoy in a shop in Colombo 05. The decoy observed that the shop owner inserted the two cigarettes to the questionable pack from another much larger pack at the time of sale.

The dark red coloured pack is cuboid shaped and has LKR 100.00 printed on it in a local language (Sinhala). Two cigarettes manufactured by the Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) were inside: one John Player Gold Leaf (LKR 55.00) and one John Player Navy Cut (LKR 40.00). It was sold for a price of LKR 100.00 when the total price of a pair of aforementioned cigarettes as of October 2018 was LKR 95.00 in the local market.

As shown in the image 03, the cigarette pack did not contain any trademark or a logo except the price. However, the colour of the pack was similar to the colour of the John Player brand, a cigarette brand of Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) manufactured in Sri Lanka. CTC, owned by the British American Tobacco (BAT), has the monopoly in cigarette manufacturing and sales in Sri Lanka. (Please see our pages Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) and Tobacco Industry Country Profile – Sri Lanka for more details). The pack did not have any pictorial health warnings or other health warnings or disclosure of ingredients as prescribed by the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) Act of Sri Lanka. The cigarettes had their trade names printed on them and when enquired a retailer stated that the pack was distributed by the Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) area distributor. (Video evidence of the statement is available with ADIC Sri Lanka).

Packaging and Labelling Regulations in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka the sale of tobacco products without a health warning and information on the content of tar and nicotine on each tobacco product is prohibited under the section 34 of the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) Act, No. 27 of 2006. Further, the pictorial health warnings covering 80 per cent of cigarette packs were enforced in Sri Lanka in 2015 (Image 4). According to the regulations, any person who contravenes the provisions is liable to either a one year imprisonment or a fine of Rs. 50,000 or both.[3][4]
Image 4: Images of John Player brand cigarette packs sold in Sri Lanka covering 80% of the pictorial health warnings

Plan to Ban Single Stick Cigarettes in Sri Lanka

In 2016 Minister of Health, Rajitha Senarathna declared that the sale of cigarettes as single sticks will be banned in Sri Lanka.[5][6][7] However this proposal was not presented to the Cabinet of Ministers until October 2018, when it got rejected due the objections of Minister of Finance and three other members.[8] This new pack is potentially useful in assessing the demand for a ‘pack of cigarettes’ that does not violate a future single stick ban, but is more affordable than the regular pack which costs LKR 1,100 (10% of the price of a regular pack) based on the pricing structure as of October 2018.

Action Taken

Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC) Sri Lanka lodged a complaint to the Sri Lanka Police Department, Excise Department and the Attorney General’s Department about the issue and it was under investigation as of 18th October 2018.

Tobacco Unmasked Resources

Notes

  1. Centre for Combating Tobacco. Personal communications via Facebook, 12 October 2018
  2. Centre for Combating Tobacco. Personal communications via WhatsApp, 12th October 2018
  3. Government of Sri Lanka. National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA), Sri Lanka, (Amendment) Act, No. 3 of 2015 March 06 2015, accessed October 2018
  4. World Health Organization. WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2015. World Health Organization website, 2015, accessed March 2017
  5. M Peiris. Ban sale of single cigarettes - Government Medical Officers Association, Asian Tribune, 24 November 2016, accessed October 2018
  6. Daily Mirror. Sale of loose fags will be banned: Rajitha 09 March 2017, accessed October 2018
  7. T Sripathi. Implications of the imposed ban on the sale of loose cigarettes in Sri Lanka, Daily FT,17 April 2017, accessed October 2018
  8. D Liyanage. No ban on single cigarettes sale, Daily Mirror, 17 September 2018, accessed October 2018