Tobacco Industry Country Profile – Sri Lanka

From TobaccoUnmasked

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is an island in the Indian Ocean with a population of 20.7 million.[1] A country with a predominantly rural population distribution (81.5%), the average Life Expectancy at Birth is 75.3 years. With a literacy rate of 91% and universal free health and education, the country reports a Human Development Index of 0.78.[2][3][4][5] It is a Lower Middle Income Country with a GDP Per Capita of USD 3,946.592.[6] Known as an agriculture based country in the past, Sri Lanka is currently showing a downward trend in agricultural activities, with only 7.9% contribution to the country’s GDP. As of 2016, 56.8% of the GDP was generated via services, with ‘Industry’ following second, contributing 27%. [7]

In the period from 1505 to 1948, Sri Lanka was consecutively invaded by Portuguese, Dutch and the British. Tobacco cultivation was first introduced by the Portuguese and it is speculated that they also introduced the habit of tobacco smoking.[8] British American Tobacco (BAT) first established its branch in Sri Lanka in 1906 and the Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) was incorporated in 1932.[9] ’Ceylon’, the term British used as the name of the country continues to be the name of the tobacco company (Ceylon Tobacco Company), established in the British colonial era.[10]

Tobacco Smoking in Sri Lanka

According to the 2015 STEPWise approach to Surveillance (STEPs) Non-Communicable Disease risk factor survey results by the World Health Organization and the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health, proportion of current smokers among those aged between 18 and 69 years was 15.0%. The daily smoking prevalence rate was 10.2%. The current tobacco smoking prevalence among men was 29.4% and 0.1% among women.[11]

Trend Survey 2018 on Tobacco, conducted annually by the Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC) Sri Lanka, on tobacco smoking trends over the age of 15 years, reported a smoking prevalence of 28.4%. This is an increase from year of 2017 weighted rate of 23.8% but reports a steady decrease of smoking prevalence from the beginning of the 2009 to 2018 (Image1). Proportion of current smokers among those aged between 15 and 24 years was 21.5%. The smoking prevalence between the age 25 and 39 years was 21.5% and smoking prevalence above 40 years was 31.9%. Smoking prevalence among females remains low as per the past (< 1%).[12]

Image 1: Trends of Tobacco Smoking Among Males in Sri Lanka[12]

According to the same survey, main tobacco product smoked was manufactured cigarettes with a proportion of 91%. Bidi (or Beedi), the home industry based hand-rolled smoking product, was consumed by only 8%.[12] Even though the CTC claims that 40-45% of tobacco smoking market is comprised of bidi smokers during the year 2009 to 2015 period, many local studies conducted in the same period reported prevalence rates lower than 10%. More details can be found in Industry Arguments: Increase of Beedi Consumption.[10]

Burden of Tobacco Use

The death toll of tobacco in Sri Lanka estimated in the year 2018, was 12,351 people per year. Thus, it is accountable for 10% of overall deaths.[13]

According to the United Nations Development Programme, each year, tobacco use costs Sri Lanka LKR 214 billion in economic losses and causes substantial human development losses.[14] The reported annual revenue of the CTC in 2018, Sri Lankan Rupees (LKR) 145.3 Billion, (the equivalent of approximately 798.75 Million US dollars) indicates the economic burden of tobacco on Sri Lankan households.[15] Local evidence suggests some rural low income households spend around 40% of their income on tobacco.[16]

Tobacco Industry in Sri Lanka

Tobacco Companies & Market Shares

The CTC has a monopoly over the cigarette market in Sri Lanka. CTC is also directly involved in the complete process of production of cigarettes to the local market; namely, tobacco cultivation, manufacturing of cigarettes and distribution to retailers. It remains a subsidiary of BAT, operating via its local counterpart British American Tobacco Holdings (Sri Lanka). According to the 2015 Annual Report of the CTC, BAT owns 84.13% of shares of CTC.[15]

According to a report from World Bank in 2017, CTC owns 99% of the manufactured cigarette market in Sri Lanka with the remaining 1% comprising of imported cigarettes.[17]

According to a report by the John Keells Stock Brokers (Pvt) Ltd quoting the CTC in 2008, CTC owns 96% of the cigarette market, the remaining 4% comprising of illicit cigarettes[18] According to the same report;

“The Sri Lankan cigarette market is on a decline, with the pace of decline escalating because of the implementation of the National Alcohol and Tobacco Act in December 2006 which prohibits smoking and drinking in enclosed public places such as restaurants and social clubs and in public transport and as well as continuous excise led price increases.”[18]

A report by the Amba Research Private Limited in 2013 also reports a decline in the cigarette market in Sri Lanka. According to them, the main reasons for the observed decline are the rising cost of cigarettes driven by increased tax and growing health awareness about the adverse health effects of smoking. The report also explains the increased sales volumes in 2010-2011 period was due to the opening of country’s Northern and Eastern Market after the ending of the war.[9]

Tobacco Cultivation & Manufacturing

Almost 100% of the tobacco used for cigarette manufacturing in Sri Lanka is cultivated in the country, which accounted for approximately 3000 tons of tobacco in 2018.[15][19] Even though CTC includes tobacco farmers to the livelihoods it generates, tobacco farmers are not directly employed by the CTC.[15]

CTC operates via two factories; the Colombo Factory and the Green Leaf Threshing Plant in Kandy.[15] According to the Sri Lanka Directory of Exporters, there are three other tobacco manufacturing companies in Sri Lanka[20];

  • United Tobacco Processing Pvt Ltd
  • Thansher and Company
  • Agio Tobacco Processing Company Pvt Ltd

Distribution, Sales & Profits

According to the CTC, its cigarettes are distributed via 14 ‘exclusive distributors’. The network of retailers is reportedly 60,000. CTC implements a trade loyalty programme named Abhisheka to reward retailers selling high numbers of cigarettes.[15] Both figures showed a reduction from 2015, in which the reported figures by the CCT were 17 and 72,000 respectively.[10]

CTC’s reported profits (after tax deductions) in the year 2018 was slightly more than LKR 17 Billion (17,004,000,000), which approximately amounts for USD 93.5 Million.[15]

Role in the Economy - Tax, Exports & Employment


The contribution to the government tax revenue by the CTC in 2018 was 6%. It also shows a decreasing trend from 2015, which reported a 7%.[10][15] The details on tobacco tax and related issues can be found under the key topic Tobacco Tax and Pricing Related Issues.


CTC exports cigarettes, which contributes approximately 1% to its overall annual revenue.[15] According to the Sri Lanka Export Development Board, CTC also exports unmanufactured tobacco.[20]

Sri Lanka Directory of Exporters, also lists the following as exporters of tobacco products; [20]

  • United Tobacco Processing Pvt Ltd – exports cigarettes and tobacco cuts
  • Thansher and Company – exports cigars
  • Agio Tobacco Processing Company Pvt Ltd – exports semi-manufactured tobacco[21]


Even though CTC claims they are generating more than 176,000 livelihoods, as of 2018, the number of permanent employees in CTC was 270.[15] The number of employees in the other tobacco companies operating in Sri Lanka are;

  • United Tobacco Processing Pvt Ltd - 1875.[22]
  • Thansher and Company - between 250-499.[23]
  • Agio Tobacco Processing Company Pvt Ltd – 1800[24]

Social Investments

CTC operates its social investments under a subsidiary named Outreach Projects (Guarantee) Limited. The reported social investments of the CTC in the year 2018 is LKR 32 Million. It also shows a decrease from the reported figure in 2015, which was 47 Million.[15][10] For further details on social investments of CTC please visit the pages under; Sustainable Agriculture Development Programme (SADP) | SADP Plus | SADP Lite | Gangaramaya Temple Wesak Zone | Na Sevana Community Development Project.

TobaccoUnmasked Resources

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External Resources

The local language translations



  1. THE WORLD BANK. The World Bank In Sri Lanka, 15 October 2019, Accessed February 2020
  2. Trading Economics. Sri Lanka - Rural Population, 2020, Accessed February 2020
  4. TRADING ECONOMICS. Sri Lanka - Literacy Rate, Adult Female, 2020, Accessed February 2020
  5. UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME. Human Development Indicators, undated, Accessed February 2020
  6. CEIC. Sri Lanka Forecast: Nominal GDP Per Capita, undated, Accessed February 2020
  7. Statista. Sri Lanka: Share of economic sectors in the gross domestic product (GDP) from 2008 to 2018, 2019, Accessed February 2020
  8. C.G.Uragoda, A History of Medicine in Sri Lanka. Colombo: Sri Lanka Medical Association, 1987
  9. 9.0 9.1 Amba Research Private Limited. Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC, 31st October 2013, accessed March 2017
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Ceylon Tobacco Company, Ceylon Tobacco Company Annual Report 2015, 2016, accessed November 2016
  11. Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, Sri Lanka. Non-communicable Disease Risk Factor Survey, Sri Lanka 2015, Colombo: Ministry of Health/World Health Organization, 2016, accessed November 2016
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC) Sri Lanka. Trend Survey on Tobacco, 2018, Accessed February 2020
  13. World Health Organization.FACTSHEET 2018 SRI LANKA, 2018, Accessed February 2020
  14. United Nations Development Programme. [1] May 2019, Accesssed February 2020
  15. 15.00 15.01 15.02 15.03 15.04 15.05 15.06 15.07 15.08 15.09 15.10 Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC. ( Annual Report 2018) 2019, Accesssed February 2020
  16. V.De Silva, D.Samarasinghe, R.Hanvella. Association between concurrent alcohol and tobacco use and poverty. Drug and Alcohol Review. 2011,30:69–73
  17. World Bank Group. Overview of Tobacco Use, Tobacco Control, Legislation and Taxation, 2017, Accesssed February 2020
  18. 18.0 18.1 S Rajasekaran. Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC): Corporate Update, September 2008, accessed March 2017
  19. Sri Lanka Excise Department, Sri Lanka Excise Department Performance Report 2014, Colombo: Sri Lanka Excise Department, 2015, accessed November 2016
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Sri Lanka Export Development Board. Sri Lanka Directory of Exporters, 2017, accessed March 2017
  21. Royal Agio Cigars. The Organisation: Agio Cigars in Sri Lanka, undated, accessed March 2017
  22. United Tobacco Processing Pvt Ltd. Factories, undated, accessed March 2017
  23. Kompass International. the Thansher and Company, undated, accessed March 2017
  24. European Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka. Agio Tobacco Processing Co. (Pvt) Ltd., undated, accessed March 2017