–Presently, 31.8pc men, 5.8pc women and 19.1pc youth become tobacco addicts
KARACHI: As the tobacco epidemic is spreading in the country at an alarming rate, Pakistan is the among the 15 countries worldwide with a heavy burden of tobacco-related ill health with more than 56.7 per cent tobacco consumers. Presently, there are some 31.8 per cent men, 5.8pc women and 19.1pc youth who are addicted to tobacco in one form and other.
These views were shared by a panel of experts at the launch of Pakistan Civil Society Alliance for Tobacco Control, organized by the Human Development Foundation (HDF) at a local hotel on Tuesday.
Among others, the panelists included Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of HDF Azhara Saleem, Zahid Thebo, Regional Manager SPARC, Sanaullah Ghumman, General Secretary Panah, Dr Shelina Bhanami, Assistant Professor Aga Khan University, Imdad Soomro, Senior Investigative Journalist, Dr Syed Zafar Hussain Shah, Head of Medical Surgery, Memon Medical Institute Hospital, Zahid Shafiq, PM-HDF were amongst the panelist.
While speaking on the occasion, CEO HDF Azhar Saleem stated that the World Health Organization’s 2013’s standardized estimate of smoking prevalence further reveals that 31.8 pc of men, 5.8 pc of women, and 19.1 pc of Pakistan’s adult population currently use tobacco in one form or another. Of these, 17.9 pc of men, 1 pc of women and 9.6 pc of the adult population overall are daily cigarette smokers, while 4.4 pc men, 1 pc women and 2.7 pc of the adult population are daily waterpipe smokers.
Moreover, 10.5 pc men, 3.5 pc women and 7.1 pc of adults use smokeless tobacco daily. Among youth, 13.3 pc of boys, 6.6 pc of girls and 10.7 pc of all youth currently use tobacco or a tobacco product, Azhara Saleem added.
“The numbers envisage an alarming revelation i.e. the ratio of male to female smokers has increased in the Youth bracket. In the adult bracket, there is 1 female smoker for every 5 male smokers; however, in the youth age bracket, for every 2 boys, there is 1 girl, who is smoking. These trends are not a mere myth. A recent study conducted by HDF, PANAH, FFC and SPARC with the name of ‘Big Tobacco, Tiny Targets’ reveal how tobacco advertisement, product display and sales around primary and secondary schools by the tobacco industry has carefully chosen the youth, specifically girls as the target audience for their new tobacco campaign.
Therefore, it has become vital for the organisations associated with health, academia, education, youth development and human rights wings to join hands to lobby against the horrendous marketing strategy of the tobacco industry which is ostentatiously targeting the youth of the country to have new customers for their poisonous product”, he went on the say.
“In 2002, Pakistan promulgated the Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Health Ordinance which restricts tobacco use at public places and public service vehicles, restricts advertisement of tobacco products, prohibits sale of cigarettes to minors, and storage, sale and distribution of cigarettes in the immediate vicinity of educational institutions and makes it mandatory to display the no-smoking messages at public places, etc.
Pakistan also became a signatory of FCTC in February 2005, under which it vowed to show political commitment to reduce tobacco consumption in the country.
The WHO’s FCTC was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic. The spread of the tobacco epidemic is facilitated through a variety of complex factors with cross-border effects, including trade liberalization and direct foreign investment. Other factors such as global marketing, transnational tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and the international movement of contraband and counterfeit cigarettes have also contributed to the explosive increase in tobacco use”, he concluded.
Zahid Thebo of SPARC said that Pakistan has a national law to protect the health of non-smokers and it has also voluntarily become the signatory of the FCTC, there are still a violation of the laws, a few among which include the blurred or small GHWs on the cigarette packs.
“This is due to the insufficient reporting mechanism to testify any violation of the Tobacco control laws in the country and the ignorance about the need to carefully implement these laws. While the Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Health Ordinance (2002) does prohibit the use of tobacco in public places, the gaps in the law have caused the Tobacco industry to manipulate them. The following gaps have been identified in the Non-Smokers Health Ordinance of Pakistan”, he said.
According to Sanaullah Ghumman of Panah, there is a complete smoking ban in the healthcare facilities, primary and secondary schools, universities, private offices, government facilities, public transport and restaurants; however, the tiny target report reveals that despite this ban, the sale of cigarettes within the 50-meter vicinity of schools and colleges is still prevalent.