The myth we so certainly believe in, that cigarette smoking relieves one from tension, is nothing but a lie we tell ourselves. It can be said that, yes, one smoked and it made them feel lighter, it made them feel refreshed but, no, it does not make you any cooler. The younger generation has an incorrect perception about the ‘harmless’ puffs they take every now and then. “One cigarette will do you no harm” is the start of this infection. That one piece of white wrap filled with tobacco can put you at more risk than you thought. As common as cigarette smoking is, it is very unfortunate to see the growth in other products, such as sheesha, marijuana and drug abuse, especially in the youth. More than 28 percent of the youngsters in our capital, Islamabad, are addicted to smoking, which may have started for them as a fashion trend.
We live in a world that judges you immensely for the choices you make in life and even on the little mistakes or blunders you make. Sadly, this judgemental society thinks of smoking as a norm. They will talk about you and they will criticise you about the much less important things you do but they will hardly ever react to our children, our husbands or our friends smoking, even though the harm is more than obvious. Derived from various surveys, 40 percent of men and more than 16 percent of women smoke in Pakistan and the result of this horrible habit is also obvious, as 90 percent of lung cancer cases in the country are caused directly by smoking. There are more than 30 million smokers in our nation and a million deaths per annum are caused by this devastation.
If you are naive enough to think that smoking does not affect you, think again. Six million people around the world die of second hand smoke every year. The harm does not just stop there; smoking is venomous to our environment, nature and society. As addictive as the habit becomes, the possibility of being able to quit successfully cannot be ruled out. We all have personally witnessed our family members or friends or friends of friends quitting cold turkey but with alarming withdrawals that include frustration, anger, depression, mood swings and hunger pangs.
This menace is slowly rotting our society, starting from the grassroots, from the youth to the elderly. Tobacco has left many families with tragic ends; those innocent drags of the cigarette turn into a monstrous addiction before you even know it. We need to guide our children on how to distinguish successfully between right and wrong, and adhere to the correct path. We do tell them that smoking is a bad thing but we do not really hit on the point that peer pressure is an even worse thing. In the innocence of their youth, it is the thrill and pressure that leads younger minds to indulge.
Not only teens, but even adults also need to grasp the concept that smoking will not be the correct solution to their midlife tensions and crises. If you are really that tense, see a counsellor or talk to someone close. Do not give in to the side of fire and ashes. World No Tobacco Day, which falls on May 31 every year, was first celebrated in 1987 and is a sign for all those under the influence of cigarette smoking, or to all those who are likely to indulge in it someday. The World Health Organisation (WHO) started this day for a reason and not only should it be recognised and followed but understood as well, as the hazards of smoking are abhorrent. Open your eyes to the harms of smoking and close your minds to the thought of it. According to WHO, about 274 people lose their lives in Pakistan every day due to tobacco-related diseases like lung cancer, throat cancer, heart attack, tuberculosis and mouth cancer. Please also know that every year, almost 100,000 Pakistanis lose their lives to tobacco-related diseases, while about five million lives are lost globally per year.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), in the full interests of our countrymen, wants to enforce a ban on all tobacco advertisements in the country. The federal ministry of national health services, regulation and coordination on May 23 observed that Pakistan was amongst 178 countries that are signatories to the internationally binding WHO’s Framework Convention of Tobacco Control and is committed to impose a ban on tobacco advertisement. Our government might do its bit to eradicate this menace but, ultimately, it is binding upon us to make a change. Make yourselves a promise today. Live healthy and know that it is also cool to say ‘no’.
The winds of change, it seems, have forsaken Pakistan for the time being. The days that are to come ...