01 February, 2011

Smoking hazards highlighted at a seminar

Published in Pakistan Observer (1st Feb. 2011)
Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: Smoking which is usually accepted by family members is now increasingly criticized by the society and people around smokers which is a positive indication that we are moving towards a smoke-free society. This phenomenon was noted at a media training workshop on ‘Tobacco Taxation’ on Monday in Islamabad aimed at educating people about the hazards of smoking. The workshop organized by Coalition for Tobacco Control – Pakistan (CTC-Pak) was held at a local hotel in Islamabad.

Participants at the inaugural session included Director General Tobacco Control of The Union Dr Ehsan Latif, Director General Tobacco Control Cell, Ministry of Health Yusuf Khan and health journalists from across the country.

The participants noted that tobacco use claimed around 100,000 deaths annually in Pakistan last year and over half of the adult population is addicted in one form or the other including shisha, gutka and niswar.
The workshop highlighted that there are about 22-25 million are smokers in Pakistan.

Smoking is highly addictive, and besides causing significant health risks, it reduces oxygen intake and damages arteries, increases blood pressure, contributes to cholesterol levels and can lead to certain cancers.

Tax increase on tobacco products is one of the most effective tobacco control measure. “According to the World Bank, price increases are the most effective and cost effective tobacco control measure, especially for young people and others on low incomes, who are highly price responsive” said Shahzad Alam of WHO suggesting measures to reduce tobacco consumption.

Dr. Ehsan Latif, Director Tobacco Control, International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases, Edinburgh, Scotland mentioned that “a price rise of 10% decreases consumption by about 8% in developing countries.”

Yusuf Khan, Director General Tobacco Control Cell, Ministry of Health, Pakistan said that “given the increase in the number of deaths arising from tobacco consumption, Pakistan’s Ministry of Health has mandated to have pictorial warnings covering 40% of the major display area on cigarette packets to discourage consumers, especially the youth.”

Pictorial health warnings on cigarette packets is the best practice for a country like Pakistan where literacy rate is very low, but statistics and warning labels don't work with everyone; hence there is a need of therapies and counseling centers for people willing to quit smoking.

However, the participants expressed concern over the absence of rehabilitation services for people who want to quit smoking. “Unfortunately, there is no concept of anti-nicotine therapy in the country and no designated sections in hospitals where a person who wants to quit could get counselling or health tips,” lamented Dr Fouad Aslam

In his presentation on ‘Smoke-free and Ban on advertisements’, Dr. Fouad Aslam, Technical Officer, International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases, mentioned that “enforcement of legislative measures for complete ban on tobacco promotion, promoting a smoke free environment, raising awareness on smoke-less form of tobacco consumption and increase in tobacco taxes are few most effective measures to control tobacco use.”

Khurram Hashmi, National Coordinator, (CTC-Pak) informed that “the aim of CTC-Pak is to strengthen the implementation of World Health Organization’s (WHO) provisions of Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) into national tobacco control laws.” With the support of Bloomberg Global Initiative for Tobacco Control, CTC-Pak is in the process of monitoring the implementation of tobacco control statues in Pakistan.