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Govt to forcefully implement ban on smoking: minister

December 18, 2004

RAWALPINDI, Dec 17: The government would forcefully implement the ban on smoking from January next, said the federal minister for health, Nasir Ahmed Khan, here on Friday.

Speaking at the inaugural session of ONCO 2004, 11th annual cancer conference, he said: "We would put in lot of energy to effectively implement the ban." Smoking is rated as one of the major risk factors in cancer and doctors suggest non-smoking as a possible way for avoiding chances of cancer.

The minister, while describing the planned course of action, said a coordinated effort would be launched along with the provincial governments to stop smoking in public offices, buildings and transport.

"We'll certainly give a try and hope for the best," he added when pressed for chances of success of such a drive. Referring to the progress made towards restrictions on smoking, he said the country once regarded as "ash tray of the world" was now regarded as a frontline player in the drive against smoking.

He said smoking had already been banned on international flights of national flag carrier. He said an attempt would be made for enhancing the allocation for health sector to 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent of the gross national product.

The minister said the allocations had already been massively enhanced by both the provincial and federal governments, but still remain very low as compared to the average international spending.

Polio eradication, he said, was another target to be achieved. "From next year, we would start mopping of the disease. Once we are finished with the agenda of eradicating polio, we would shift our resources towards the general immunization campaign," he added.

On the issue of doctors service, he said, the career structures of doctors were being revised. In a light vain, the minister said, a proposal was under consideration to continue the services of doctors even after they cross the age of superannuation. "If they are fit enough there is no harm in continuing working."

He said he had spoken to the provincial governments asking them to stop victimization of the doctors. "They have been told to invest in them as they are our valuable assets," he told the gathering, adding that the doctors should learn to respect themselves if they wish to be respected.

Referring to the high costs of cancer treatment, Mr Khan said, the pharmaceutical companies would have to take into considerations the moral and ethical aspects while drawing the lines between profits and costs.

Earlier speaking at the conference, Chairman of Higher Education Commission Dr Attaur Rehman regretted that the quality of medical research in the country was very poor and there was hardly anything worthwhile to show to the world.

He said the situation was quite serious. He said the situation had developed due to absence of careers for research workers. He asked the health minister to develop career structures for such people.