A Sociological Analysis and Exploration of Factors Associated with Commercial Preparations of Smokeless Tobacco Use in Sri Lanka

Document Type : Research Articles


1 Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.

2 Family Health Bureau, Ministry of Health, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

3 National Cancer Control Programme, Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medicine, Narahenpita, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

4 Office of the Provincial Director of Health Services, Western province, Maligawatte, Colombo 11, Sri Lanka.

5 Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Ma-laya, Malaysia.

6 OMF Unit, General Hospital, Kalutara.

7 Expert Committee on Tobacco, Alcohol and Illicit drugs, Sri Lanka Medical Association, Sri Lanka.

8 World Health Organization, Country Office, Sri Lanka.


Background: Use and addiction to commercial preparation of Smokeless Tobacco (CPSLT) is creating new socio-cultural issues and health challenges in Sri Lanka.  The objective of this sociological study is to investigate and analyse the socio-cultural factors that influence CPSLT use Sri Lanka to enable development of effective interventions.  Methods: This is a qualitative study for which data was collected through in-depth interviews in selected groups that use CPSLT. Thirty-five interviews were carried out in seven of the 24 districts in the country representing urban, rural, plantation communities and different livelihood and ethnic, gender and age groups in the year 2016. Purposive and snowball sampling techniques were used for selecting interviewees. The data was analysed by using qualitative data analysis techniques and sociological perspectives. Results: This study reveals that the CPSLT use has integrated with the culture of several sociological and livelihood groups. Products such Thool (tobacco powder) and Maawa (dried areca-nut with flaked tobacco and some flavoured chemicals) were identified as the most popular forms of CPSLT.  Use of CPSLT has developed as a silent sub-culture specific to several social and livelihood groups. The informal CPSLT industry operating in the urban and sub-urban areas is influencing the school children and youth engaged in sports. Different groups of users express different reasons and justifications for its use. Conclusion: Use of CPSLT is closely integrated with the day to-day lifestyle and values of people of specific groups. and is an unseen part of life. Therefore, interventions will be urgently required to control the use of CPSLT to prevent its significant health impacts, considering the different contexts, symbolisms and justifications of its among the different groups. 


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