Plain packaging essential to stop rising tobacco use in Pakistan: Experts

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Around 100,000 Pakistanis die annually from tobacco. Data shows 36% adult males, 9% adult females among 25 million smokers in the country

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Pakistan must immediately adopt WHO’s plain packaging recommendation for all smoked and smokeless tobacco products as Pakistan is now among the top four countries with rapid use of tobacco products, urged Pakistani experts and health professionals.

Highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use, experts advocated or effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

“Tobacco companies promote smoking by advertisement and colorful attractive packaging which makes the products more desirable, encourages people to buy and consume and distracts them from health warnings” said Consultant Pulmonologist SIH Dr. Sohail Naseem at a seminar to mark World No Tobacco Day 2016.

Plain packaging means branding and promotional information is removed from tobacco packaging and replaced by graphic health warnings, dull color combinations, a brand name and a product and/or manufacturer’s name in standardized font.

The plain packaging suggestion is extremely significant for Pakistan because “the Ministry of Health has surrender from its global commitment to increase the size of the pictorial health warning on cigarette packs from the existing 40% to 85%, and also failed to implement rotation of the graphic warning every six months” point out this report.

Many European countries have passed laws in favor of plain packaging, which will be implemented in May 2016. “Pakistan should also adopt such measure in in-line with article 13 (tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship) of the WHO Framework convention on Tobacco control (WHOFCTC)” said Dr. Sohail urging policy makers to resist interference in the policy process by the tobacco industry, as any country that tries to implement such measures should expect significant opposition by the tobacco companies.

One person dies in every 6 second from tobacco-related death which means 10 people are dying globally in 1 minute from tobacco use. Smoking will kill one billion persons by the end of this century, experts highlighted.

Tobacco smoke contains 4000 chemicals out of which 250 are known to be harmful for humans and 70 of them cause cancers. More than 60,0000 nonsmokers are dying each year from second-hand smoke word wide and one-third of them are children, warned Dr. Sohail Naseem during a seminar organized by Shifa International Hospital (SIH) in Islamabad.

Plain packaging for all smoked and smokeless tobacco products

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Tobacco industry spending more on ads than government on education

Tobacco industry is spending more on advertisement than government on health and education to curb smoking. “In 2002, total tobacco-related health education budget by Ministry of Health was 2 million while Tobacco Company spent over 6.1 million in their advertising” said Consultant Psychiatrist Dr. Abdul Wahab Yousafzai.

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Tobacco use high in developing countries including Pakistan

Tobacco use is decreasing in developed countries due to legislation made by governments such as high taxes, ban on tobacco advertisements. “But unfortunately these companies are now focusing on developing countries” said Dr. Abdul Wahab Yousafzai.

“Eighty percent of cigarettes are consumed in developing countries including Pakistan,” he said.

On average, Pakistanis burn away Rs 562 million every day in smoking cigarettes, and almost equal amount in smokeless tobacco. Pakistani men are regular smokers and about 55 percent families in Pakistan have at least one person who smokes. The use of sheesha is equally dangerous, he highlights.

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Smoking kills 100,000 Pakistanis annually

Smoking claims lives of 100,000 Pakistanis every year and causes an estimated 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths in men and 80 percent in women, informed Consultant Oncologist SIH Dr. Muhammad Furrukh.

An estimated 90 percent of all deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease are caused by smoking.

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70 percent people with cardiovascular diseases are smokers

Consultant Cardiologist Dr. Saeedullah Shah said it was alarming that above 70 percent people with cardiovascular diseases are smokers. Smoking causes failure to taste food, it shrinks arteries and causes various cardiac diseases. He said smoking is major cause of heart attack. “Heart attack death rate is 70 percent greater in male smokers than non-smokers”, he added.

Dr. Shah also said that various cancers including acute myeloid leukemia, lung cancer, mouth cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, bladder cancer, cancer of the cervix, cancer of the esophagus, kidney cancer, cancer of the larynx (voice box) and uterus cancer are caused by direct smoking, secondhand smoking, chewing tobacco and using pan, gutka or sheesha.

“Smokers face an increased risk of certain types of throat and stomach cancers, even years after they quit,” he remarked.

With all its harmful effects, “Tobacco is still the single largest preventable cause of death in world today” reminded Dr. Shah.

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Sana Jamal
Storyteller. Avid Reader. Learner to the core.

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