President Maithripala Sirisena stressed that programmes that focused on educating children on the negative effects of tobacco and alcohol should be further strengthened, and a special programme will be implemented this year too to educate the public on the ill effects of tobacco and alcohol.
"It is the school children who can take the message to the public successfully. Current health and Indigenous Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne is providing excellent leadership to the health sector.I must also thank the World Health Organization (WHO) for the assistance extended towards the development of the health sector," the President said.
He made these observations addressing the inauguration of the National Conference titled "Towards a Tobacco Free Sri Lanka - Eliminating Tobacco as a Public Health Problem, at the BMICH, Colombo yesterday (29).
The programmes carried out during the past five years to curb the tobacco and alcohol menace were extremely successful. The same success propelled him to the Presidency, President Sirisena said.
According to the President, the great success of the tobacco and alcohol control programmes implemented in the country under his leadership, enabled him to win the world No Tobacco Day Award 2013 and '2013 Harvard Health Leaders' title presented by the Harvard School of Public Health, US.
"But unfortunately, the then leadership did not have the courtesy to acknowledge it. Even today, I remember this with pain".
President Sirisena pointed out that he will never forget the support extended by all health staff, health professionals, scholars and intellectuals, local and foreign organizations towards implementing the tobacco and alcohol control programmes in Sri Lanka.
"When I cancelled the licenses of 326 liquor outlets, the Treasury stated that it will lose Rs.115 billion,but, there is a big gap between the income lost and the annual funds (Rs. 285 billion) allocated to the health sector.
Health and Indigenous Medicine Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said that President Maithripala Sirisena changed the history of Sri Lanka on April 28 while Sri Lankans created history on January 8 by electing a man who can change the history of Sri Lanka.