10 December, 2010

Time for Islamabad to go smoke-free

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Non implementation of anti smoking law is encouraging extensive use of tobacco leading to the deaths of 274 people a day and causing at least 25% of deaths in Pakistan. 
Counseling services, high rate of taxation on sale of tobacco and complete ban on tobacco were few measures suggested on Monday at a gathering.

The meeting titled “Pictorial health warnings and implementation of anti smoking laws” was organized by an NGO, The Network for consumer protection with media and civil society.
“Smoking kills 274 people every day in Pakistan” claimed Dr. Arif Azad, Executive coordinator of The Network. “Printing of pictorial health warnings on cigarette packs is a great achievement of anti-tobacco advocates”. But non-implementation of laws that bars sale of cigarettes to children under 18 and smoking in public places prevail due to feeble law implementation machinery.

The objective of the meeting was to suggest drastic measures to implement anti-tobacco rules in Islamabad in order to make capital city a model (smoke free) city for the rest of the country.

Government has a critical role to play in implementing anti-tobacco laws. However according to official records, under the Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance 2002, the Islamabad city police could book only 43 smokers for violating the ban.

Any authorised officer like the members of parliament, local nazim, union councillors, even drivers of public transports, trains, planes, heads of institutions like health and educational institutions, a police officer can eject a person who contravenes the provisions of the law from any place of public work” said Dr. Anwar Rafay Network Research coordinator.

Speaking on the occasion, President of National Press Club, Afzal Butt “Media has a strong role to play in implementation and monitoring of anti-tobacco law.” 

Murtaza Solangi, DG of National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) informed that all offices of NBC are totally smoke free. He pledged NBC’s support in creating awareness about dangers of smoking.

Khurram Hashmi, coordinator of Coalition for Tobacco Control in Pakistan shared the findings of his society “There are about 22 million smokers in the country and 55% of the households have at least one individual who smokes tobacco.” 

The participants urged for National anti-tobacco movement to create awareness among the masses about the hazards of smoking. The consensus emerged at the meeting that government should make a comprehensive plan to check violations of anti-tobacco rules.

At least 25% of deaths in Pakistan occur due to tobacco-related diseases such as heart-attack, stroke, cancer and chronic respiratory conditions, said Dr. Rafay.

According to the Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance 2002, smoking and use of tobacco in any other form at public places is punishable with a fine which may extend up to Rs. 1000 and in case of second or subsequent offence may extend to even Rs100,000. Three months’ imprisonment is also suggested for the violators, in certain cases.