A SPEAKER gives his presentation on anti-smoking laws at the event on Wednesday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
A SPEAKER gives his presentation on anti-smoking laws at the event on Wednesday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: Focusing on the children and youth of Karachi to make Karachi a tobacco-free city through the implementation of the Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance of 2002, the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) organised a dialogue with regard to World No Tobacco Day at a hotel here on Wednesday.

Speaking about Sparc’s campaign ‘Let’s make Karachi Smoke-free a Reality’, Sadia Shakil of Sparc aired their concern that children as young as 13 to 15 years of age here were smoking. Sharing some statistics of the World Health Organisation, she said that 60,000 people die of tobacco-related diseases here while 34 per cent are exposed to second-hand smoke in public places while 27 per cent report exposure at home. “Smoking is becoming popular among schoolchildren as 1,000 to 1,200 teenagers, including girls, take it up daily because of things such as the sale of loose cigarettes within the reach of minors,” she said, adding that there has been a 30 per cent increase in smoking among the youth in the last decade.

“The law says that there should be no cigarette vendor or paan kiosk within 50 metres of any educational institution. But you see them near government as well as private educational institutions. Then the advertisements on the kiosks are made specially eye-catching for children. They even paste them at their eye level so that they don’t miss them,” she said.

‘The law says that there should be no cigarette vendor or paan kiosk within 50 metres of any educational institution’

Kashif Mirza of Sparc also pointed out in his presentation that 274 Pakistanis are killed from tobacco every day and 5,000 Pakistanis are admitted to hospital because of tobacco.

MPA Arsalan Taj Hussain said that cigarette smoking is a gateway to taking drugs. “There are laws there such as the 50-metres law but what about the implementation of these laws?” he said. “You can even buy cigarettes inside Karachi University. When you don’t even see smoking as a problem, then you would not even care about making it stop?” he said.

“These days young people think it is disrespectful to smoke in the presence of their elders, but even if they are still smoking, aren’t they?” he added.

“Things have become so bad that compared to the past when people used to frown upon a smoker amid them, people now think someone who doesn’t smoke as strange. These attitudes need to change.”

MPA Mangla Sharma said that there was a need for legislation against cigarette smoking both at the provincial and national levels. “The last five years has seen the passing of as many as 194 bills by the Sindh Assembly, but only nine of those bills got the rules of business,” she said.

A senior health journalist, Waqar Bhatti, said he started smoking in class 10 but after smoking for 20 years he decided to quit. “Normally, when people quit smoking they do it after their health starts depleting. But I am glad I did it before something like that happened to me,” he said.

“But,” he said, “you can imagine how I feel now after being informed by the educational institution where my 16-year-old son studies that he smokes. Please make cigarettes so expensive that they become out of reach of young people,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2019