Symposium on Grass Root Level Actions to Control Tobacco / Alcohol and to Counter Industry Interference

Centre for Combating Tobacco (CCT), Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo in collaboration with Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC) organised the Symposium on Grass Root Level Actions to Control Tobacco / Alcohol and to Counter Industry Interference, on the 19th of September 2017 at the New Building Lecture Theatre, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo.

Dean of Faculty of Medicine, Colombo, Professor Jennifer Perera, delivered the welcome speech. Dr. Mahesh Rajasuriya, Director of CCT, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control sponsored tobacco industry observatory in the region, introduced their online research database, Tobacco Unmasked. Ms. Hiruni Wijesuriya – Lead Reporter, CCT, presented some field level tobacco industry tactics on Field level industry interference on tobacco cultivation in Sri Lanka based on a pilot study done by the CCT.

Chairman of the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol (NATA), Dr. Palitha Abeykoon was the chief guest of the event. Dr. Abeykoon stated the importance of community power which could bring vast changes in tobacco and alcohol control.

Dr. Samantha Kithalawaarachchi, the Director of the Presidential Task Force on Drug Prevention highlighted the significance of having a President who combats against alcohol, tobacco and other drugs with a true passion.

The Director of the Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other drugs Mr. Hakan Leaifman pressed out the importance of paying attention to the new trends of the alcohol industry, such as promoting alcohol consumption to the women.

The Executive Director of ADIC, Mr. Pubudu Sumanasekara, delivered the vote of thanks. He also mentioned the notability of the symposium by filling the gaps in the tobacco and alcohol prevention field by giving the opportunity to grass root level activists to raise their voice.

In the plenary session Prof. Diyanath Samaransinghe delivered a valuable speech suggesting that there should be a mechanism or a space to measure and appreciate the people who have supported the small steps that one has to pass to achieve the ultimate goal of stopping alcohol or tobacco consumption. He also stated that every person has both good and bad sides: but in different portions and therefore everyone who is engaged in drug prevention should be skilful to find ways to bring out the goodness in ‘bad’ people; in other words people who act as owners, agents, dealers, employees of alcohol and tobacco industry or people who support the industry for the sake of money. If we do this, we might be able to witness upright politicians who work for the happiness and good health of people one day.

Symposium was conducted under six themes. Twenty five (25) oral and fifty seven (57) poster presentations were presented in both Sinhala and Tamil languages, which were selected through a scientific committee consisted of the professionals in the field.

This symposium had created a tremendous platform to the activists and the stake holders in the grass root level tobacco and alcohol prevention field by providing them a chance to present and share their experiences. Documenting these experiences as a form of an “abstract book” has given a remarkable value to the participants in their professions.

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