IT has been established beyond any doubt by medical research institutions worldwide that smoking is the major cause of lung cancer and several other preventable diseases. This information has been widely publicised by international and national media as a result of which most of our population is aware of the hazards of smoking.

However, it is a sad fact that instead of decreasing, the habit of smoking is still catching on, especially among our youths.

Smokers are also responsible for exposing non-smokers to the harmful effects of tobacco by making them passive smokers.

When people smoke in enclosed spaces such as offices and public transport, non-smokers also inhale the poisonous fumes, thus being at equal risk of contracting life-threatening diseases.

Few non-smokers are aware of this, but even if they are, there is nothing they can do about it. First, the non-smoker is hesitant to object to smoking for he may the only person complaining. Even if he does muster courage to protest, he is either snubbed or ignored. In our culture it is considered impolite to ask someone to refrain from smoking. Therefore, non-smokers continue to suffer in silence.

When the boss at an office or the head of a household smokes, there is no reprieve for the non-smoker.

Although a law has been in place for more than a decade which bans smoking in enclosed spaces, the ban is not enforced. People still continue to smoke in offices, shops, airports, public transport and even hospitals. There is a general apathy and lack of concern amongst officials and the public alike.

We must make serious efforts to discourage smoking. A strong resolve and will power is required to kick the habit. The longer it is nurtured, the more difficult it becomes to give it up. It is best if the habit is not picked up in the first place.

Shisha is another dangerous form of smoking which is gaining popularity, especially in posh areas. Trendy youngsters converge at fashionable Shisa bars to indulge. Shisha contains a mixture of several aromatic substances which are even more injurious than tobacco.

The major steps necessary for eliminating smoking are as follows:

(i) A public education campaign and seminars should be held by educational institutions, NGOs and industry. Some incentives should be given to non-smokers in offices such as points in ACRs and extra marks in educational institutions.

(ii) A ban should be imposed on sale on cigarettes to teenagers and near educational institutions. Paan shops and stores near schools continue to openly dispense loose cigarettes to students.

(iii) Smoking should be banned in offices, banks, public transport, lounges, supermarkets, shops and crowded places such as bazaars, exhibitions and entertainment areas. The person in charge of these establishments should be made responsible to enforce the ban and empowered to take action against violators.

(iv) A policy must be made so that television channels and cinema houses do not display content in which actors are seen smoking.

(v) Children of smokers are more prone to passive smoking and are likely to become smokers themselves. Therefore, parents must make an extra effort to give up smoking and keep an eye on their children.

ASIF JAH Karachi

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