ISLAMABAD: On the eve of World No-Tobacco Day, World Health Organisation (WHO) has asked for strict implementation of laws to check the growing use of tobacco in Pakistan on Thursday.
The WHO said in Pakistan as many as 19.1 % adults use tobacco in any form, men 31.8 % and women 5.8 % Among the youth (13-15 years of age), the prevalence is 13.3 and 6.6 % among boys and girls respectively.
World No Tobacco Day is observed around the world every year on 31 May.
As per the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2014, in Pakistan, the current adult tobacco smokers and smokeless tobacco users were 12.4 % and 7.7 % respectively while the exposure to second-hand smoke was 48.3 %. On the conservative estimates keeping in view the increase in population, tobacco attributed deaths may amount to 227,000 per year.
“Smoking among young people is particularly worrying,” says Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean. “It has reached 42% in boys and 31% in girls”. This includes smoking shisha, which is more popular among young people than cigarettes. “By 2025, smoking is expected to rise in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, contrary to the trend in the rest of the world,” explains Dr Al-Mandhari. “This will lead to an escalating epidemic of lung disease regionally”.
The WHO stressed the need to accelerate tobacco control legislation and the implementation of FCTC and MPOWER measures to reduce demand for this deadly product. “Policies are in place to help achieve this target,” says Dr Al-Mandhari.
According to WHO tobacco smoking is the primary cause for lung cancer, responsible for over two-thirds of lung cancer deaths globally. Tobacco smoke contains over 7000 chemicals, at least 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Second-hand smoke exposure at home or in the workplace also increases the risk of lung cancer.
Additionally, tobacco smoking is the leading cause of chronic pulmonary disease, a condition of a painful cough and agonizing breathing difficulties. Tobacco also aggravates asthma. Furthermore, tuberculosis damages the lungs and reduces lung function, which is further exacerbated by tobacco smoking.
“Stop tobacco from taking your breath away. Tobacco kills one person every 4 seconds. Do not be that person and do not contribute to the death toll,” says Dr. Palitha Mahipal, WHO Head of Pakistan. He said tobacco is deadly in any form or disguise. Tobacco killed 100 million during the last century and if current trends persist, tobacco, by the end of this century, will kill a billion people or more unless urgent action is taken.
Dr Palitha said that a recent high level WHO Mission on tobacco taxation has held extensive technical discussions with the Federal Bureau of Revenue, met with high ups and advocated for immediate elimination of the third-tier and enhanced tobacco taxation and we would see it happening. “We have high hopes that the Prime Minister, who himself is a champion, and our Health Minister, would leave no stone unturned to protect the health of the people.