The truth is often buried. “Pir Pagara and Jon Elia are some of the people who died from smoking but the media doesn’t describe cigarettes as the cause of their deaths,” said chest specialist Prof. Javaid A Khan. “Mehdi Hassan is in critical condition because of chain smoking.”
His warnings came during the public awareness sessions at the opening session of the 22nd biennial international convention of the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) that kicked off here on Friday at the Expo Centre. Over 5,000 doctors from all over the country as well as over 174 medical professionals, researchers and experts are attending the three-day convention.
Prof. Javaid’s was one of the more interesting presentations. He said that by completely banning or making cigarettes unaffordable for people in Pakistan, it could prevent 40 per cent of cancer cases and bring a 25 per cent drop in heart ailments instantly.
“Cigarettes kill more people in Pakistan compared to all suicide bombings, traffic accidents and crime related killings in a given year,” he said, adding that around 100,000 people die every year in Pakistan due to smoking-related complications. Cigarettes are the cheapest commodity in Pakistan as compared to their prices in the rest of the world, even Afghanistan. Similarly, tobacco chewing is the worst habit found in a majority of Pakistanis. By banning products with tobacco and betel nut or chhalia, oral cancer can be prevented up to 90 per cent.
Pediatrician Prof. Ghaffar A Billo told that audience that of all the children who die every year around the globe due to preventable diseases, half of them die in Pakistan, mainly due to diarrhoea and pneumonia, both easily preventable.
“Breast feeding a child at least for the initial six months protects the child both from diarrhoea and pneumonia as a mother’s milk is the first and most effective vaccine,” he said.
At the same time, Pakistan is the only country where 50 per cent of children are facing malnutrition or lack adequate food. This figure goes up to 60 per cent in Sindh. Similarly, 20 per cent of children are obese or overweight, another dangerous health condition.
He urged mothers not to use the bottle as one million children die every year across the world because of this method. Neurologist Prof. Iqbal Afridi spoke of how a psychiatric patient not only suffers himself but his family, relatives and friends also face the agony.
Gastroenterologist Prof. Huma Qureshi said every ninth or tenth Pakistani is suffering from hepatitis but a majority does not even know what causes it and how to protect themselves from it. The convention will continue on Saturday and Sunday.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2012.