Cancer Research UK Tobacco Control Programme: Sri Lanka

  • Status:
  • Complete
  • Programme:
  • CRUK Tobacco Control Programme
  • Funder:
  • Cancer Research UK (CRUK)
  • Partner:
  • Institute for Policy Studies (IPS)
  • Key Policy Areas:
  • Fiscal policy and domestic resource mobilisationTobacco control
  • Type of Support:
  • Policy Influencing Support

Kivu was asked by Cancer Research UK to design and then implement a multi-year policy influencing programme in Sri Lanka and Nepal focused on strengthening tobacco control policies in both countries.  

In Sri Lanka, Kivu worked with a local think tank, the Institute for Policy Research (IPS) to develop a policy-focused research agenda that had to adapt to a rapidly changing political and economic context and navigate countervailing pressures from an active tobacco industry. Across the 5 years of the programme Kivu and IPS had to adjust policy influencing strategies and tactics to significant shifts in political power, with the rise and fall of the Presidency of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, as well as the collapse in the economy and living standards, precipitated by Covid-19 and a sovereign debt crisis.  

Kivu and IPS, working alongside a coalition of CSOs, reform-minded officials and advisers, and public health bodies, used a mix of elite-level “insider” and bottom-up “outsider” approaches to successfully advocate for substantial reforms to tobacco control policy.  

The programme is highly regarded by CRUK and secured successive increases in cigarette excise duties, representing an average cumulative increase in tobacco excise duty of over 75%, a fall in the smoking prevalence rate from around c. 15% to c. 9%, and an increase in government revenue from tobacco taxes.

Key Impacts:
  • Establishing a local think tank as a centre of excellence on a new policy issue.
  • Significant policy impact achieved with (i) average cigarette duties increasing by 75% over the life of the programme, (ii) reducing the smoking prevalence rate to below 10%, and (iii) substantially increasing government revenues via hikes in tobacco duties.
  • Successfully delivering a locally-led highly adaptative issue-based policy influencing programme in a tumultuous political context.