(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The renowned physicians working in major hospitals of Pakistan have sent a letter to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, raising serious concerns on the growing tobacco epidemic in the country.
“We, the doctors, see the victims of tobacco every day in their clinical practice and are very concerned on the growing mortality and morbidity due to tobacco use in the country,” he remarked.
Prof Javaid Khan warned that failure to control tobacco use in the country would be a health and economic disaster for the country. “Tobacco use increases the risk of heart attacks, hypertension, stroke, various lung diseases and twenty different types of cancers,” he explained.
Elaborating on the impact of tobacco on Pakistan's economy he said that Pakistanis spent over Rs. 260 billion on over 64 billion cigarettes in the year 2015 alone.
The petition was signed by well-known physicians belonging to leading hospitals of Pakistan including Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), Dow University of Health Sciences, Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, Liaquat National Hospital, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, Sheikh Zayed Hospital Lahore and Rahim Yar Khan, Gulab Devi Chest Hospital Lahore, King Edward Medical College, Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar and Fauji Foundation Hospital Rawalpindi.
The petition demanded that the ‘Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of non-smoker's Health Ordinance of 2002’ should be strictly enforced in order to control tobacco epidemic in the country.
The doctors urged that all public places and public transport should be made completely smoke free in order to protect the health of non-smokers.
The petition also advised the government to increase the taxation on cigarette in the forthcoming budget as at present cigarette prices in the country are lowest in the region.
They claimed that according to World Bank research increasing the tax by 10 percent, tobacco consumption in the country can be reduced by 11 percent.
The letter said that the strong pictorial health warnings on tobacco products are a proven strategy to reduce its demand. The petition demanded of the government to increase the size of pictorial health warning on cigarette pack to 85% without any further delay.
The doctors regretted that in spite of the fact that tobacco is responsible for almost 50% of all cancer cases in the country, yet smoking is still being advertised in the country at the point of sale. Also, it is portrayed through TV drama serials as a pleasurable, cool, glamorous and an adventurous act.
The petition demanded a comprehensive ban on all forms of tobacco advertising and sponsorship in the country. The physicians also appealed that all universities and colleges must be made smoking-free zones in order to discourage youth from taking up this addiction, suggesting that there should be no tobacco vendors/shops allowed within walking distance of schools, colleges or universities.