- Smoking becoming popular among school children, statistics show approximately 1,000 to 1,200 teenage students take up smoking daily
- According to WHO smoking in Pakistan has increased by 30 percent over the last decade
- Social media could help promote healthy attitudes among people
The Pakistan Pediatrics Association has estimated that 1,000 to 1,200 school-going children in the age group of 6 to 16 years take up smoking every day in the country.
According to a report, besides new smokers ex-smokers in the low socio-economic group reported spending 25 per cent of the total household income on smoking.
The report focuses on the anti-smoking social marketing strategy in Pakistan with an aim to reduce smoking prevalence, especially among the youth. To reduce smoking and its associated cancers immediate actions are required by public health authorities.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Pakistan smoking has increased by 30 per cent compared to figures in 1998. WHO reported that a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship can decrease the consumption of tobacco products by 7 seven per cent, provided all the other tobacco control measures are kept constant where as in some cases such intervention are found to decrease tobacco use up to 16 per cent.
In Pakistan, 19 per cent of adults aged 18 and above smoke tobacco while each year, approximately 60,000 people die of tobacco-related diseases in the country. Among youth of age group13 to 15 years, around 34 per cent report being exposed to second-hand smoke in public places and 27 per cent report exposure at home.
TheNetwork for Consumer Protection Project Coordinator Dr Sobia Faisal said that smoking was the single most avoidable risk factor for cancers. She said that social marketing was an effective strategy to promote healthy attitudes and influence people to make real, sustained health behavior change by transiting through different stages which include contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.
She also said that social marketing could influence smokers to voluntarily accept, reject, modify, or abandon their smoking behaviour. Dr Soba observed that smoking is increasing in Pakistan which necessitates effective measures and it was a high time to educate the masses about the hazards of tobacco, particularly school-going children to strive against promotional tactics adopted by the tobacco industry. She remarked that raising tobacco taxes was one of the most effective tobacco prevention and control strategies. “Raising tobacco product prices decreases the prevalence of tobacco use, particularly among kids and young adults which could help produce substantial long-term improvements in health,” she added.
TheNetwork for Consumer Protection Advocacy Officer Rubina Bhatti urged for taking necessary action at all levels by concerned stakeholders as several people were dying due to the dangerous habit, while a big statistical graph of deaths was expected in future also. She stressed the need for effective implementation of tobacco control laws in the country and asked the authorities concerned to make proper strategies in preventing sale of tobacco to minors. “It is high time to ensure implementation of tobacco control policies and laws,” she opined.
When contacted, an official from tobacco control cell said that Pakistan had ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control while the country had also implemented pictorial warnings on cigarette packs. He said that plans are underway to create awareness among citizens regarding negative effects of smoking and educating them about tobacco control laws for proper implementation.