By: Asim Nawaz/Editor
MURREE: Parliamentarians showed great concern over the number of deaths per day because of tobacco use and vowed to take this matter to Prime Minister immediately. They were speaking at a “National Conference on Emerging Tobacco Trends and Control” organized by Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) Saturday, 28 September, 2019 at a local hotel in Murree.
The conference was attended by Wajiha Akram, Federal Parliamentry Secretary, Education & Professional Training, Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwami, Member, National Assembly, Senator Sitara Ayaz, Sabeen Gull Member Punjab Assembly, Senior Journalists and government representatives.
The Parliamentarians said this is an alarming situation that tobacco is the largest silent killer in Pakistan as 160,489 people die every year. That means 438 people die every day due to tobacco use. Participants from tobacco control cell and media said that there is a dire need to tackle this issue by; Implementing plain packaging and large graphic health warnings on all tobacco packets; enact and enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; eliminate exposure to second hand smoke in all indoor workplaces, public places and public transport; implement effective mass media campaigns that educate the public about the harms of smoking tobacco use and secondhand smoke.
Ms. Wajiha Akram, Federal Parliamentry Secretary, Education & Professional Training said that the growing habits of smoking in youngsters is the initial step to get attracted for drugs. He highlighted the crucial role of anti-smoking campaign reducing the health risks in schools and colleges. We need to condemn the smoking habits in youngsters she said.
Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwami, Member, National Assembly said that the smoking habits of youngsters; growing habits of smoking in youngsters is the initial step to get attracted for drugs. He highlighted the crucial role of anti-smoking campaign in reducing the health risks associated with smoking. He also vowed to write a letter to Prime Minister in this regard.
Malik Imran Ahmed, Country Head Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids said that Pakistan is one of the fifteen countries worldwide with the heavy burden of tobacco related health issues. Around 1000 to 1200 Pakistani children between ages of 6-15 years start smoking every day according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) results of 2015. Pakistan’s population consists of 60% youth below the age of 25 where alarming statistics of young people getting addicted and at risk of tobacco consumption calls for strict checks for selling cigarettes to the minors particularly. The worrisome aspect is the healthcare burden, which is 143 billion compared to revenue generation, which only stands at 83 billion currently, leading to loss to federal exchequer.
Dr. Minhaj Us Siraj, Deputy Director General, Ministry of National Health Services shared the “Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance, 2002” which includes measures to stop people from smoking in public, ban on access to tobacco products near educational institutes and restriction on sale of cigarettes to those who are under 18. He told further told that there are laws to control tobacco sales for minors but implementation is very weak. Reduced smoking will result in better health and decreased health cost of government, he added.
Dr. Ziauddin Islam, Technical head of Tobacco Control Cell said that tobacco companies are targeting through different tobacco trends and targeting the markets of minors and women to expand their future business. He further added that the volume of illicit trade is very low as claimed by the tobacco industry and the data presented to the government by the industry is also challenge-able. He further talked that tobacco companies are falsly promoting e-cigarettes are less harmful as compared to traditional smoking but in reality it is equally harmful and destructive for human health. The role of advocacy is necessary to mobilize masses against the tobacco harm.
Ms. Sitara Ayaz, Member, Senate of Pakistan, Ms. Sabeen Gul, Member, Punjab Assembly, Mr. Tauqeer Ahmed, Secretary Sales Tax & Federal Excise, FBR and Mr. Murtaza Solangi, senior journalist also spoke on the occasion.