Chinese coffin nails
Posted on June 19th, 2019

Editorial Courtesy The Island

Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne has reportedly threatened to resign if the government approves, what he calls, a Finance Ministry plan to allow cigarettes to be imported from China. His consternation is understandable. He can rest assured that he is not alone in opposing the deplorable yahapalana move. Even the Government Medical Officers’ Association, which is demanding his resignation over some other issues, will assist him in scuttling the government efforts to import Chinese coffin nails.

Chairman of the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol Dr. Palitha Abeykoon has also flayed the Finance Ministry for its ill-conceived move which, if implemented, will make an already bad situation much worse. Whatever possessed the government to consider permitting cancer stick imports from China!

What the government must strive to do is to find ways and means of ridding the country of the killer tobacco products instead of trying to flood it with imported fags. As we pointed out in a previous comment, most people do not seem to have fully realised the danger of tobacco. They apparently think that smoking only causes serious diseases. A study, conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US, has proved that tobacco products act as gateway drugs and open the door to the use of narcotics. (The NIH is a part of the US Department of Health and Human Services and America’s medical research agency, making important discoveries that improve health and save lives.) Nicotine, the NIH researchers say, makes the brain more susceptible to cocaine addiction. The NIH findings suggest that lowering smoking rates in young people might help reduce cocaine abuse.

The reason the government is said to have given for its decision to allow Chinese cigarette imports is ludicrous; the Chinese working here find it hard to smoke the local brands! If so, they must be smoking less now, and permission must not be granted for importing cigarettes from China, on any grounds, lest the Chinese workers’ tobacco consumption should increase at the expense of their health in case of their favourite brands being made available.

The government is in dire financial straits owing to election bribes being showered on the public, liberally, by way of pay hikes and handouts for the poor. Ironically, while trying to paint a rosy picture of the economy, it has had to curtail its capital expenditure by as much as 15%, besides drawing huge foreign loans, which will have to be paid back by future generations. It hands over state assets to foreigners for a song while burdening the people with more and more taxes. It has not spared even the sick who seek treatment at private hospitals. It has also introduced a carbon tax on vehicles. One wonders why it has not thought of imposing a cancer tax on all tobacco products to rake in more revenue and cover the cost of treating tobacco victims. Higher taxes on commodities that are harmful to the people and cause the state’s health related expenditure to increase will make the discerning public happy.

It is being argued, in some quarters, that higher taxes on cancer sticks will lead to a decrease in the consumption of fags and a corresponding drop in the government’s tax revenue. If so, that is all the more reason for increasing the coffin nail prices urgently; both the government and the people will gain from such a move in that there will be a drop in the incidence of killer diseases caused by smoking and in the tobacco-related health expenditure, which is much higher than revenue from taxes on tobacco products.

The government ought not to stoop so low as to boost its revenue by allowing fag imports and endangering the people’s health in the process. It can boost its revenue through higher taxes on cigarettes, as was said earlier, or by cutting down on its wasteful expenditure. A rupee saved is a rupee earned.

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