LAHORE: A group of civil society organsitions has urged the government to start blanket screening of high school and college students for smoking, as on average 1,500 to 2,000 students join different ranks of smokers.
Unveiling the preliminary health screening survey finding, which had samples from high school and college volunteers students, the Coalition of Anti-Smoking Fighters, an alliance of five non-government and not-for-profit organizations, said the survey was undertaken from October 2019 to March 2020 in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar.
The finding said over 70 per cent of the students and other young adults fell into the light and intermittent smoking category, but they remained at a greater risk for becoming chronic addicts of narcotics or tobacco dependence.
In their early 20s, they were likely to develop adverse health effects from their smoking habits. A press release issued by the coalition said the representatives of the Human Development Foundation, Concerted Teachers Foundations, SPARC, Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids, Pakistan, and Pakistan National Heart Foundation conducted the survey to find smoking patterns, dependence, and other health factors.
The alliance will reveal the survey on May 31, the Anti-Tobacco Day. The coalition says the government needs to adopt a futuristic approach and channelise the additional revenues into situations where financial setbacks are faced such as the current pandemic of coronavirus.
The survey recommended extra taxes on tobacco and the implementation of government’s announcement under which a surcharge of Rs10 per pack of cigarettes and Re 01 per 250ml of sugary drinks was to be enforced. However, the surcharge approved by the cabinet was not presented in the financial bill 2019-20 and therefore could not be implemented.
The coalition says if the surcharge is imposed on cigarettes, the government will generate about Rs.40 billion per year in addition to the existing tax revenues and same is the case with sugary drinks. Under the survey, 2,000 volunteer students were screened seeking their routine smoking and health patterns.
The coalition added both cigarettes and carbonated drinks have poor nutritious value and the sales trends show growing habit of smoking among youngsters and high consumption of soft drinks. Not only higher prices discourage youth from initiating cigarette smoking but encourage current smokers to quit, who are nowadays at a higher risk to coronavirus due to their decreased immunity.