A dire need to end teen smoking
16% of the girls have tried smoking by the age of 15, while more than 6% smoke at least once a month at that age.
While informally talking to a World Health Organization (WHO) official in Islamabad during a seminar, I was told that Pakistan is among the few countries that have taken no serious measures to implement its own legislation to restrict tobacco consumption. She said that despite convincing sessions with Pakistani authorities, no positive measures have come forth to curb the practice of smoking.
Instead, the WHO has received reports of increasing number of female smokers in Pakistan, which mainly include young girls at school level, especially those studying in private schools.
Teen smoking is a complex phenomenon, which has several causes. Unfortunately, there is a strong paradox about the origins of this social problem in Pakistan. But what is surprising to note is the aforementioned increase in teenage girls smoking in Pakistan. A study by the Aga Khan University, conducted with 644 girls in Karachi, suggests that at least 16 per cent of the girls have tried smoking by the age of 15, while more than six per cent smoke at least once a month at that age. Parents of these kids either have no check on them or they, in the name of so-called ‘freedom’ to maintain the status symbol, have chosen to let their children do whatever they want.
I will not be impressed if, on this No Tobacco Day as well, NGOs and civil society simply hold seminars and interactive sessions in luxurious hotels that result in nothing but bundles of recommendations, or a lavish luncheon. There is dire need to control this menace which is taking over an equally greater proportion of the youth.
We seem to be confusing and alienating our youth instead of helping them. If, on the one hand, we call for legislation to control the habit and on the other, give a free hand to the next generation, which is resulting in addiction at an early age, then I am afraid there will be disastrous consequences in the near future.
Being part of the media industry, we have to understand that we can play a critical role in shaping a possible solution and creating greater awareness. Let this No Tobacco Day serve to make us more proactive in reducing, if not eliminating, the practice of smoking.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2013.