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The government authorities lack clarity regarding their roles following the half-baked devolution of the health sector under the 18th constitutional amendment.—AP Photo

KARACHI: It is feared that many of the objectives which have been met under the tobacco control legislation in the country may be undone because federal and provincial government authorities lack clarity regarding their roles following the half-baked devolution of the health sector under the 18th constitutional amendment, it emerged on Thursday.

The "Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance 2002" places restrictions on advertising pertaining to tobacco products, prohibits sale to minors, restricts smoking in places of public use, envisages raising awareness of the hazards of tobacco use, and calls for effective warnings on tobacco products as well as increase in taxation on tobacco products.

Dr Javaid A Khan, who is also chairman of the National Alliance for Tobacco Control, said on Thursday that despite the passage of a significant time since the devolution of the health sector, various initiatives pertaining to control of tobacco sale and use had lost momentum. Dawn

Talking to after a "Tobacco control and smoking cessation workshop" held as a part of the 10th biennial conference of the Pakistan Chest Society' at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, he shared some results of a recently conducted study to assess the implementation of anti-tobacco laws and awareness about anti-tobacco laws in Karachi. Prof Khan said that despite legal restrictions smoking was taking place in 58 per cent of restaurants, while 70 per cent of them did not display "No Smoking" signs and only 33 per cent were found to have designated smoking areas.

The study, conducted jointly by Prof Javaid A Khan and Rizwan Khan of the Dow University of Health Sciences, also revealed that although there was no smoking in 71 per cent of the surveyed offices, only 33 per cent had designated smoking areas.The researchers also visited 240 outlets and found 92 per cent selling cigarettes to minors. Students and teachers were found smoking at 77 per cent of the tertiary level educational institutions. Of 37 different brands, anti-smoking pictorial warning on the packs was present on only 38 per cent.

According to him, if current trends persist the number of tobacco-related deaths worldwide per year is set to rise to 8.3 million by 2030. About 100,000 people die annually in Pakistan alone from this cause, a number expected to double by 2025, he added.

In his presentation, Dr Naghman Bashir from Islamabad discussed the method of counseling a smoker to quit smoking. He said that quitting smoking was not difficult for healthcare providers, but difficult for smokers. However, doctors should try to help smokers find a personal reason to quit and not just rely on reiterating the unhealthy effects of smoking.

Dr Mohammad Irfan of AKU spoke about smoking cessation pharmacotherapy and observed that numerous effective medications were available to counter tobacco dependence. He said that nicotine in cigarettes was not itself a carcinogen but an addictive substance, which needed long-term planning to get rid of through education, training, medication and family support.

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