Sri Lanka’s Department of Excise (DE) has denied claims that an attempt is being made to register a second cigarette company in the country, according to a story in The Island.
Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC), the second largest market capitalized company quoted on the Colombo Stock Exchange, is Sri Lanka’s only legal cigarette manufacturer.
A spokesman for the DE, responding to claims by the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) about an attempt to register a second cigarette company, said that his department had not received any applications for registration. And there would have to be a formal application if such a company were to function legally, he said.
Meanwhile, Health Minister, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, said the GMOA’s claims regarding an attempt to register another cigarette company in the country comprised an outright lie.
“There has been no other government in this country which has worked towards curbing the use of tobacco and cigarettes like the present one,” he said. “Bent on curbing the menace it has brought in several regulations inclusive of the 90 per cent tax on tobacco.”
Senaratne said that two cabinet papers had been submitted to prohibit the sale of cigarettes within a 500-meter radius of schools and the sale of individual cigarettes.
Annually the government received tax revenue of Rs100 billion while it spent more than Rs72 billion in treating diseases stemming from tobacco and cigarette consumption. About 25,000 people lost their lives annually due to tobacco and alcohol consumption.
Senaratne said that, according to the tobacco company [presumably, CTC], its income had reduced by one per cent after the government increased taxes on tobacco. “Would anyone be interested in setting up another cigarette company under such unfriendly circumstances?” the minister asked rhetorically.
During the term of the previous government, he said, the graphic warnings on cigarette packs had been reduced from 80 percent to 60 percent. However, at that time, the GMOA, which claimed to have dedicated itself to battle tobacco and smoking, was silent on the matter.
Senaratne pledged that the present government would not permit the registration of another cigarette company.
The GMOA, however, said it was in the process of writing to President Maithripala Sirisena urging him to probe the matter.