Tobacco use: GAT survey uncovers startling impact on health

Unfortunately in Pakistan 29% smokers start smoking before the age of 17

Sehrish Wasif May 28, 2015
With the government struggling to enforce its writ on illicit tobacco trade, high taxation only makes legal players uncompetitive. STOCK IMAGE


Pakistan’s first-ever Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) has uncovered several startling figures about the use of tobacco and smokeless tobacco.

There are currently 23.9 million adults who use tobacco in the country. Out of these 15.6 million smoke tobacco and 9.6 million use smokeless tobacco products, according to the survey conducted by the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination (NHSRC) in collaboration with Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) and the World Health Organisation.

GATS – the global standard to systematically monitor adult tobacco use and track key tobacco control indicators – was launched on Thursday to mark the World No-Tobacco Day which is being observed every year on May 31. It is also aimed at getting a clearer picture of tobacco use and its adverse impacts on both the health and economy of the country.

NHSR Minister Saira Afzal Tarar while sharing the findings of the survey at a press briefing on Thursday said unfortunately in Pakistan 29% smokers start smoking before the age of 17. Three in 10 persons, who currently smoke, thought about quitting because of a pictorial health-warning label.

Nearly 16.8 million adults who worked indoors were exposed to tobacco smoke at the workplace, 56.3 million at home, 21.2 million at restaurants and 49.2 million who used public transport, she said.

“On one hand the findings of the survey are disturbing but on the other hand
the positive thing about it is that with this Pakistan joined a small club of 27 countries that have conducted this survey,” she said.

Moreover, she shared that the average amount spent on 20 manufactured cigarettes was Rs 40.9 while the same amount of rupees can buy approximately 1 kilogram (2.2. pounds) of potatoes or five eggs or one loaf of bread.

On the other hand, 74.8% of adults favoured increasing taxes on tobacco products. Around 85.8% adults believed smoking causes serious illness whereas 77% believed smokeless tobacco causes serious illness.

“It is sad to see that tobacco use kills nearly six million people every year, including the 600,000 who were killed by the effects of exposure to second-hand smoke,” said Tarar.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2015. 

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