Smoking kills 100,000 Pakistanis every year: Health experts for increased taxes on tobacco in budget 2014-15

ISLAMABAD: Highlighting the alarming number of deaths tobacco use causes every year, health experts demanded the government to raise taxes on tobacco and its products in the upcoming budget 2014.They were addressing a public awareness seminar organised by Shifa International Hospital (SIH) in connection with World No Tobacco Day here on Friday. Every year, on 31st May, World No Tobacco Day is marked, underlining the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. The theme of this year’s campaign is “raise taxes on tobacco, lower death and disease”. A large number of people including consultants, doctors, civil society representatives, medical students and citizens of twin cities attended the seminar.  Executive Director Health Services Academy Dr. Asad Hafeez was the chief guest of the seminar. Director Strategic Planning SIH Mahmood Mirza thanked the audience, chief guest and the media for their support to create awareness in masses about the negative effects and threats tobacco use can pose to human body. Dr. Asad Hafeez the government will implement comprehensive ban on tobacco advertisement by May 31. He said there was a dire need to impose more taxes on tobacco as around one thousand children from age 8 to 10 start using tobacco every day.Consultant Pulmonologist SIH Dr. Sohail Naseem said as many as 5000 people in the country are admitted in the hospitals everyday owing to tobacco related diseases, Above 100,000 die every year due to smoking related diseases. Tobacco kills nearly six million people each year, of which more than 6, 00,000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke or passive smoking. Unless we act now, the epidemic will kill more than 8 million people every year-by-year 2030 across the world.Dr. Sohail said smoking would kill one billion persons by the end of this century. He said half of the Pakistani men are regular smokers and about 55 percent families in Pakistan have at least one person who smokes. He said sheesha was equally dangerous. “Major part of household income is being spent on smoking rather on health and education,” he said. Pakistan is losing almost Rs562 million daily in cigarette smoking. Eighty percent of cigarettes are consumed in developing countries including Pakistan.He informed that smoking causes an estimated 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths in men and 80 percent in women. An estimated 90 percent of all deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease are caused by smoking.Consultant Cardiologist and Head of Cardiology Department SIH Dr. Asad Ali Saleem said negative effects of smoking and tobacco use are beyond lungs and pulmonary diseases. He said smoking is one of the major causes of hypertension, heart attack and stroke. He observed that above 70 percent people with cardiovascular diseases are smokers. Smoking causes failure to taste food; it shrinks arteries and causes various cardiac diseases. Smoking is major cause of heart attack. “Heart attack death rate is 70 percent greater in male smokers than non-smokers”, he added. “Government must increase tax on cigarettes in this budget, as it’s the most effective policy to reduce tobacco use”, Dr. Asad stressed. Consultant Radiation Oncologist Dr. Asif Masood said that various cancers including acute myeloid leukaemia, lung cancer, mouth cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, bladder cancer, cancer of the cervix, cancer of the oesophagus, kidney cancer, cancer of the larynx (voice box) and uterus cancer are caused by direct smoking, second-hand smoking, chewing tobacco and using pan, gutka or sheesha.“Smokers face an increased risk of certain types of throat and stomach cancers, even years after they quit,” he remarked. Dr Asif concluded on the message that “Tobacco Company kills its best costumer”. Later, Shifa announced to launch a support group for citizens who want to quit smoking and seek support after getting rid of this deadly habit. The hospital also announced to arrange hiking on Islamabad’s trail 3 to raise awareness on the harms of tobacco on Sunday, June 1.

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