World No-Tobacco Day: In Pakistan, smoking kills 0.1 million people every year

Doctors advise smokers to either quit smoking or prepare for increased risk of smoke-related illnesses.

Waqas Naeem May 31, 2013
A vendor takes a drag from his cigarette on World No Tobacco Day. PHOTO: AFP


On an average, around 5,000 people are admitted to hospitals every day in the country due to tobacco-related diseases and over 100,000 die every year.

This was stated by doctors at a seminar organised by the Shifa International Hospital in collaboration with The Network for Consumer Protection on Friday to mark the World No-Tobacco Day

They advised smokers to either quit smoking or prepare for increased risk of smoke-related illnesses that could also prove fatal.

The World No-Tobacco Day is marked annually on May 31 to raise awareness about the negative health impact of tobacco and to advocate effective tobacco control policies.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco kills around six million people every year, including over 600,000 non-smokers who die due to second-hand smoke.

For 2013, the theme of the day is “Ban Tobacco Advertising, Promotion and Sponsorship (TAPS).” Health experts believe that stopping tobacco advertisements and sponsorship is the most cost-effective way of tobacco control. According to Dr Sobia Faisal, a project director at The Network, tobacco consumption could be reduced by an estimated seven to 16 per cent just by banning tobacco advertisements.

According to a study done by The Network, tobacco advertisements in print and electronic media were regulated in the country and there was a law to curb sale of cigarettes near educational institutions, but implementation of these regulations was weak.

The Network monitored, over 18 months, tobacco marketing at hospitals, judicial complexes, public offices, educational institutions, bus stops, public entertainment places and at over 2,000 points of sale (PoS) or shops selling tobacco products in Islamabad and 10 other districts.

The study shows that 78 per cent PoS were advertising tobacco products and 77 per cent were using “Power walls and Fascia” - walls and cabinets used to display cigarette packs -for tobacco advertising. The Network’s study also found that around 87.4 per cent of retailers were selling tobacco products to minors in violation of state laws.

The Network representatives at the seminar said TAPS increases the social acceptability of tobacco use . They recommended that district implementation committees be strengthened to monitor violation of tobacco control laws and the committee on tobacco advertisement at the federal level be replicated in the provinces.

Shifa International Hospital Consultant Pulmonologist Dr Matiur Rehman said, cigarette manufacturers have turned to the developing world. “Around 70 per cent of the estimated 5.4 trillion cigarettes smoked every year are smoked in developing countries.”

Rehman said there were around 28.08 million smokers in Pakistan. “Smoking increases the risk of cancer 23 times and the risk of cardiovascular diseases by two to four times.” In the case of parents, who smoke there is the risk of diseases being transferred to babies,” he added.

He said it was a myth that sheesha was safer. “Sheesha is not only packed with nicotine but the smoking pipe increases the risk of transmitting pulmonary infectious diseases.”

A consultant cardiologist at Shifa hospital, Dr Saeedullah Shah, said, “It’s alarming that over 70 per cent people with cardiovascular diseases are smokers.”

Meanwhile, the Coalition For Tobacco Control-Pakistan and the Society for Alternative Media and Research jointly put up streamers at China Chowk in Blue Area to raise awareness about smoking.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2013.


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