Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne says that his colleague Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s argument for importing Chinese cigarettes does not hold water and he is dead against the move.
Finance Minister Samaraweera was planning to allow the importation of Chinese cigarettes on the grounds that the Chinese workers in Sri Lanka found it hard to smoke the brands available in the local market, Dr Senaratne said, addressing a ceremony at Waters Edge at Battaramulla in connection with World No Tobacco Day, organised by the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA) yesterday.
“There are only 6,000 Chinese workers in Sri Lanka at the moment and there are around 10,000 Indian workers in the country.
What will happen if the Indian workers too demand that they need to smoke their own country bands. In addition there are Russian and many other nationalities working here. If we permit the Chinese brands then others too will demand their brands. It will lead to chaos.
“I will not let anyone import Chinese cigarettes and if that happens, sitting in the Cabinet will be problematic for me, Senaratne said.
He said that he would step down from the government and start rebelling against it if Samaraweera was allowed to import Chinese fags. “I will not remain in a government which helps to kill people indirectly to increase its tax revenue by permitting Chinese cigarettes,” he said.
Dr. Senaratne said that the government already spent twice the amount of money it received as tax revenue from cigarettes to treat those who suffered various illnesses resulting from smoking.
The NATA said that there was a move by the Ministry of Finance to grant licenses to import foreign cigarettes to Sri Lanka.
“It must be stated categorically that it will be a serious retrograde step that will undermine all the current programmes for preventing the harm from tobacco and other narcotic substances in the country,” the NATA said.
The NATA said that allowing Chinese cigarette imports would negatively affect the health, social and economic development of Sri Lankans as well as the Chinese people.