ACCORDING to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 80 per cent of the world’s 1.3 billion tobacco users live in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), like Pakistan, where health facilities for the population are already meagre. Recent studies have shown that smokers are more likely to get affected by the Covid pandemic compared to non-smokers.

Smoking is a known cause of many respiratory diseases that leave the smokers more susceptible to the dreaded coronavirus.

Tobacco smoke contains 60 known cancer-causing chemicals and thousands of other harmful substances.

Damage due to tobacco is well established as a prime reason behind cardiovascular diseases, lung, throat, oesophagus cancers, hypertension, diabetes and many other ailments. Lung cancer is the most common cancer among males, and the second most common, after breast cancer, among the females.

Relevant data shows lung cancer to be the third most common cancer in Pakistan.

More than seven million deaths are a result of direct tobacco usage, while around 1.2 million are reported among non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke.

Besides, a research conducted in Bangladesh suggested that about 10.5 million malnourished people could have an adequate diet if money spent on tobacco products was spent on food instead.

Strong tobacco control measures are needed to be taken to help those who want to quit smoking.

There should be a functional and effective helpline for such individuals. This will also minimise the chances of getting infected with the ongoing coronavirus.

Quitting the habit will not only improve the health of the smokers, but will directly increase the financial resources of their families which can be critical in the current inflationary times.

Tabinda Ashraf Shahid
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2021

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