By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
At the emergency meeting, heath professionals belonging to National Alliance for Tobacco Control (NATC) Pakistan Chest Society (PCS), Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) and Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) raised serious concern on the recent news that Federal government is considering decrease in the taxation on cigarettes in the upcoming budget.
The health experts pressed the government to increase taxation on cigarettes in order to curb the growing tobacco epidemic in the country. It was also demanded that the ‘Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of non-smoker’s Health Ordinance of 2002’ be strictly enforced in order to protect the public health from tobacco which happens to be the single largest preventable cause of death in Pakistan.
Pakistan is one of the countries where cigarette consumption is increasing with the passage of every year as according to a WHO report, every adult consumes 510 cigarettes on average every year which is alarming.
Cigarette smoking kills 100,000 Pakistanis every year. This death toll is far greater than total deaths occurring as a result of suicidal bombings, traffic accidents and crime related killings in a given year. Significant increases in tobacco taxes are a highly effective tobacco control strategy and lead to significant improvements in public health.
The research conducted by International Agency for Research on Cancer last year has shown that 50% increase in inflation adjusted price reduces smoking prevalence by 20%.
Prof Javaid Khan, Consultant Chest Physician from Aga Khan University and chairman NATC, said that the taxation on cigarette in Pakistan is lowest in the region. The low taxation rate encourages the public, especially youth.
Quoting a research conducted by World Bank, he commented that increasing the tax by 10 percent can reduce the tobacco consumption by 8 percent in low income country like Pakistan.
He also warned that tobacco in any form increases an already extensive risk of Heart disease in individuals suffering from hypertension and/or diabetes. Nicotine present in tobacco increases insulin resistance in the body and hampers good control of diabetes, he explained.
Dr Khan also regretted the closure of Tobacco Control cell in Islamabad which was working under ministry of health.
Prof. Nadeem A Rizvi. President, Chest Health and Education Society, and Head of the department of Chest Diseases JPMC, said that tobacco was 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 and is portrayed through TV drama serials as a pleasurable, cool, glamorous and an adventurous act. He demanded a comprehensive ban on all forms of tobacco advertising and sponsorship in the country.
Dr Nisar Rao of Dow university of Health Sciences said that passive smoking is a serious health risk to a non-smoker. He necessitated that all public places and public transport should be made truly smoke free in order to protect the health of non-smokers.
Addressing the doctors of Pakistan, he said that they should not only set a good example by not smoking themselves, but also work to make their clinics, health centers and hospitals smoke free.
Dr Sohail Akhter, an office-bearer of PIMA, requested the lawyers to come forward and help in the litigations against the tobacco industry for its violations of anti-tobacco laws of the country. The tobacco industry should be held responsible for deaths that are taking place every year in the country as a result of tobacco use.