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- Saturday, December 01, 2012 - From Print Edition




Over 5.4 million deaths which occur every year around the world are tobacco-related.


This statistic was imparted by Dr Nadeem Rizvi, of the Jinnah Post-Graduate Medical Centre’s Department of Chest Medicine while addressing a seminar titled, “Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD):causes and remedies”, at a local hotel under the joint aegis of the Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman Memorial Society (MKRMS) and Glaxo-Smith-Kline at a local hotel Friday afternoon.


He said many causes could be attributed to this, like cigarette smoking, pipe, Hookah, and Shisha smoking. These he said, could cause lung cancer and other pulmonary disorders, mouth cancer, heart attacks, and other diseases. Ninety percent of lung cancer, he said, resulted from tobacco consumption


He said that the biggest cause of these deaths was cigarette smoking, followed by a dusty, polluted environment, and passive smoking, meaning thereby being exposed to smoke being generated by someone else’s smoking in an enclosed space. He said that on account of these activities, the air passages became constricted. This, he said, caused emphysema, a very common cause of death. He said that five hours’ contact with a smoker could increase the risk of a non-smoker contracting COPD by 40 percent.


Another risk factor, he said, was bio-mass fuels and as such, COPD was very common among women in the rural areas where bio-mass fuels were the main source of cooking.


Another source of the ailment that he cited was the smoke from anti-mosquito coils and the fumes of chemicals factories that their workers were exposed to. All these, he said, could result in lung cancer, asthma, and emphysema.


Among the symptoms he listed were shortness of breath; frequent cough, excess of sputum or phlegm; and difficulty in breathing. Dr Rizvi said that smoking one cigarette reduced one’s life span by 11 minutes.


Dr Javed Khan, Head of the Aga Khan University Hospital’s Chest Medicine Department, said that 85 percent cases of COPD the world over resulted from smoking. He said 100,000 deaths in Pakistan occurred annually because of smoking, adding that tobacco killed far more people than suicide bombings and road accidents combined. He said if present trends were allowed to continue unchecked and the government continued to be a silent spectator, the number of deaths annually could touch the 10 million mark.


Apart from smoking, he said that 30-35 percent of all heart attacks were caused by atmospheric pollution. Among the many causes of atmospheric pollution he mentioned, was incinerating refuse out in the open. This, he said, was in addition to the thick palls of diesel fumes belched out indiscriminately by public transport buses and other vehicles.


He blamed the awfully lackadaisical stance of the government on the issue and said that the nation was being allowed to waste Rs200 billion annually on smoking. He said there was a law to make most public places smoke-free but it just was not being implemented despite the fact that according to a law promulgated in 2002, there was a fine ranging between Rs1 million and 100,000 for smoking in non-smoking zones but it was not being implemented.


He said that false values of the elite whereby even women from the trendy segment of society were becoming regular smokers were to blame. He lamented that despite the laws to the contrary, posh restaurants were doing a roaring business patronizing Shisha smoking which was taking a high toll of the style- and fashion-conscious youngsters. He surmised that the government was lukewarm because tobacco sales were bringing in an annual revenue into the federal kitty of Rs60 billion. He said Pakistan was a country where the price of cigarettes was the lowest and said that while a pack of 10 cigarettes in New York cost 20 dollars, in Pakistan the same cost 0.33 dollars. He regretted that many Pizza chains had Shisha smoking as part of their menu.


Dr Ali Arsalan of the Liaquat National College of Medicine at Karachi dwelt on the indispensable importance of early and accurate diagnosis and said that often a person suffering from emphysema was diagnosed with a heart attack mostly because of lack of cooperation or reticence on the part of the patient. He also stressed an accurate analysis of the patient’ history, that is, heredity, and his environment.


Ms Saadia Hanif presented the vote of thanks.


Wasif Nagi, Senior Editor, Health, Jung Group compered the function.