For pleasure, people are willing to put even their lives at risk. This is perhaps why those addicted to tobacco smoking despite knowing full well that it kills do not give up the harmful habit. Ninety per cent of the world’s 1.1 billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries. Pakistan is one such country, where the young generation is taking to smoking just for the kick that it gives. Among females smoking is mostly prevalent in the enlightened segment of society. Scholars are of the view that most emancipation among women have taken place via imitation.
In view of the growing number of smokers in the country health experts and activists have been asking the government from time to take effective steps to prevent smoking. A group of concerned citizens recently asked the government to take measures to discourage smoking. They urged the government to implement the decision it made four years ago to increase the size of the graphic health warning on cigarettes packs to 85pc. In January 2015, the government had issued an order asking manufacturers to increase the size of the pictorial health warning on cigarette packs from 45pc to 85pc and replace the image on the packs within the next five months. The decision was announced at a press conference by then Minister of National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar. She was awarded for it by the WHO. But the decision has not yet been implemented.
Activists went to the Islamabad High Court against the failure to implement the decision. The court issued an order a few days ago stating that the government must decide whether to implement or withdraw the notification within two weeks. Existing laws prescribe that the graphic health warning on packs must be 60pc of the size of the pack. In Pakistan, smoking kills 160,189 people each year. It seems that the authorities have taken this as merely “smoking is one of the leading causes of statistics.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2019.