THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has designated May 31st as the annual world No Tobacco Day. The theme for this year is ‘Tobacco and lung health’. Almost 50 per cent of the deaths from lung disease in Pakistan are due to the deleterious effects of smoking.

Over seven million people die in the world every year, including 166,000 in Pakistan, from the menace of tobacco, yet it is still socially accepted in our society. Various significant measures have been taken in most other countries to reduce the burden of tobacco-related morbidity and mortality. This includes increased taxation on tobacco products and a comprehensive ban on smoking at public places.

We in Pakistan have had a law in place since 2002, but no serious efforts have been undertaken to implement it. Cigarettes are still being sold at a very low cost, and even children can buy them easily, in spite of the law that prohibits the sale of tobacco to people under 18. Almost eight out of 10 people, including children, are exposed to second-hand smoking at various public places.

A huge amount of foreign exchange is spent importing costly medicines required to treat diseases caused by tobacco. Our decisionmakers must realise that we can gain health as well as save money if we control the tobacco epidemic effectively by implementing tobacco-control laws. This is crucial to ameliorating the health of our citizens and strengthening the economy.

Prof. Javaid Khan,
Chair, the National Alliance for Tobacco Control

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2019