1,500 take up smoking every day
KARACHI: Health professionals belonging to various medical universities on Friday strongly criticized the government for its failure to take effective measures for tobacco-control.
They demanded that the prohibition of smoking and strict enforcement of the Protection of Non-smokers Ordinance, 2002, in order to protect the public from smoking, the single-largest preventable cause of death in Pakistan.
Speaking at a news conference on the eve of “World No Tobacco Day,” Dr Nadeem Rizvi, president of the Sindh chapter of the Pakistan Chest Society, , said it was strange that despite the announcement made by the federal health ministry four weeks ago on the implementation of this ordinance from May 31, 2003, no practical steps have been taken so far.
It shows that the government was not serious about taking measures to control tobacco in the country, perhaps fearing loss of revenue, he remarked.
Prof. Javaid A Khan, consultant physician at Aga Khan University, said according to research conducted last year by the university, 40 percent of men and eight percent women smoke on a regular basis in the country. He regretted that the tobacco companies in Pakistan have been given a free hand to introduce a powerful addictive substance to the youth. As a result of aggressive marketing an estimated 1,500 Pakistani children were taking up smoking every day, he said. He said lung cancer was the number-one cause of cancer deaths in Pakistani males and over 90 percent of such cases were caused directly because of the use of tobacco. He said tobacco use in the form of “gutka” and ‘pan masala” was on the increase in Pakistan, resulting in a higher incidence of head, neck and mouth cancers in the country.
Prof. Sirajuddaula, head of the pathology department of Sindh Medical College, said tobacco was responsible for almost 50 percent of all cancer cases in the country, yet smoking was still advertised on PTV as something pleasurable, glamorous and “cool.”