A news briefing on tobacco promotions through films and tele dramas was held on February 22, 2005 at the Government Information Department, in Colombo. The event was organized by the Alcohol & Drug Information Centre (ADIC). Eight people involved with the film/tele industry participated.

Kumari Welagedera, Programme Officer of the Media Unit, explained to the audience as to how movies are being used for the recruitment of children. Also she mentioned about the research findings relating to the subject matter revealed from many parts of the world. Finally the objectives of holding this conference was explained thus;

It was suggested that we all should work towards a change in this regard and thereby to reduce the value that movies has in promoting tobacco industry worldwide.

As objectives of this media conference it highlighted the following:
* To get movie makers to take up the problem seriously.
* To stimulate a database within Sri Lanka film industry.
* To promote participation in finding practical solutions.
* To remove scenes that depict smoking in films as much as possible.
* To discuss the problem within the film industry

Dr. Manoj Fernando, Secretary, Committee on Alcohol and Tobacco, Sri Lanka Medical Association, briefed the gathering of the harm that tobacco does. "the harm of smoking is very big. There are many complications. It will bring death to the customer definitely. The WHO states that 50% of users undergo death when they are between 35-60%. Annually 4.9 million die due to smoking. Apart from that the users are associated with diseases, impotence, etc. 50% - 60% of lung cancers are caused due to smoking. Also 800-1000 million rupees earned out of tobacco sales per year are being sent to the mother country.

There are many myths associated with smoking. Also there are many ways that smoking is spread out.

How does CTC promote smoking?

They portray it as style, freedom, friendship, etc. They are the people who teach agriculture to Sri Lankan people. But they are the people who make our soil barren by cultivating tobacco, which is harmful to the soil.

CTC builds tombs for dead soldiers. But if you calculate the amount of people who die due to smoking, they will not be able to complete building tombs for those who die due to smoking.

The company who kills 20,000 people annually in Sri Lanka is always being offered awards (recently they were offered the award for Human Resource Management by the Post Graduate Institute of Management in Sri Lanka.) Dr. Manoj Fernando suggested that in the manner that people are being made to kill through smoking promotions in films, we should plan out a way to reverse that and stop promotions through the film industry itself by sending across a preventive message. Further Dr. Manoj said, " We cannot talk of Dengue, unless we talk of the mosquiro as well. Likewise we have to talk of the tobacco industry when we talk of the harm that smoking does to us, as it is the vector.

People know very well the number of dots on a Dengue mosquito, but they don't know of tobacco industry strategies to capture our youth and children. In Sri Lanka only 60-70 deaths occur due to Dengue, per year. But the number of deaths due to smoking in a day in Sri Lanka is 76 persons for which the company recruits the same number of youths through industry strategies.

Mr. Ravindra Randeniya, actor and film director said; " It is disheartening to note that smoking is being widely promoted nowadays. There was a time that we too thought that smoking was glamourous because of industry promotions. But I observed that the trend of youth being getting exposed to this habit during the recent past was lessening. But from 2001 there was an increase. It is an unafavourable trend. We did not know that there were subtle strategeies. "

There was a time that I too smoked. But 25 years ago I stopped it completely. Since then I felt a big difference, both physically and mentally. Now I realize that it was a folly that I did. I am ashamed of taking up of smoking. People have become slaves to this product that some people cannot attend to their toilet funcitons even without a cigarette. Only the creature who is called a "human being" has become a slave to this product, but none other creature.

Even after giving up of smoking, at times I had to use cigarettes to play my roles in certain films. But now I never use it to portray even a character. I did not know that portrayal of smoking scenes in films was a subtle strategy behind the industry.

I think the audience of television is more than the films. Therefore we should use television to carry out preventive messages. Also imported films promote smoking a lot in Sri Lanka. We hope to educate the film industry and the media on this subject.

My personal belief is that we cannot segregate smokers such as "high smokers" " moderate smokers", etc. All of them are in the same boat. It has been scientifically proved. In Sri Lanka women are more at risk of getting hooked to smoking. Young glamourous girls are promoting smoking at public places, such as shopping complexes. Tobacco industry employs them in a subtle manner.

Finally I promise that I will never use cigarettes even in films to portray a character. Also I will give my fullest cooperation to carry out this mission."

Another actor - Buddhadasa Vithanachchi, "In the past people used to smoke even in public transport. I got used to smoking having had watched cartoons - Cowboy. But I stopped smoking 30 years ago. From 15 to 30 years I smoked. My son who is 30 now has had never smoked. I am very happy about it. Mostly people get hooked to malpractices when they are in teens. In the decades 50', 60' and 70's the number of deaths due to smoking was more as people had less knowledge about smoking and its consequences.

Even after quitting smoking I have appeared for a few portrayals of smoking. But now I reject such portrayals. I think now the trend in appearing for smoking scenes is less. But still some do to highlight their worthiness glamourizing it through films, the manner that they take the cigarette in hand, how they puff out smoke etc.

I have seen media personnel too using cigarettes heavily while they are writing. Politicians too promote it."

Article about the International Day of Action:

-- Manjari Peiris, journalist