COLOMBO, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- Over 100 towns across Sri Lanka have boycotted the sale of cigarettes with an aim to discourage smoking and making Sri Lanka a tobacco-free nation, the Health Ministry said here on Wednesday.
According to the Ministry, the Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) Union have launched several programs across the country to educate locals on the ill effects of smoking and as a result, shop owners and businessmen from many towns have stopped selling cigarettes.
To date, 22 towns in Jaffna, in the former war-torn north, 17 towns in Matara, in the island's south and 16 towns in Kurunegala, in northwestern Sri Lanka do not sell cigarettes, leading to a total 107 towns boycotting cigarette sales.
Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne, while expressing satisfaction over the numbers, said they hope to increase these figures to 200 next year.
The Sri Lankan government in recent years have taken several steps to discourage smoking and the sale of cigarettes around the island.
Some of these steps include increasing the tax on tobacco up to 90 percent, increasing the pictorial warning on the cigarette pack by 80 percent, banning the sale of cigarettes around a radius of 100 meters from a school and banning smoking in public places.
The government also aims to ban tobacco cultivation by 2020.