Saturday April 13, 2024

No smoking

Estimated share of adult population who smokes daily in Pakistan is 19 %

By Editorial Board
March 25, 2024
This representational image shows smoke emanating from a cigarette. — Unsplash/File
This representational image shows smoke emanating from a cigarette. — Unsplash/File

Pakistan has a lot of work to do on the health front. The country ranks 122nd out of 190 countries in the World Health Organization performance report, and a Lancet study ranks Pakistan 154 on a list of 195 countries in terms of healthcare access and quality index. Not only does the country have a dismal healthcare sector, but it is also quite behind in taking preventive measures against certain diseases. According to medical experts, lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the country. While factors including exposure to radioactive gases and occupational substances are responsible for the disease, cigarettes are one of the most common causes of this form of cancer. In that regard, anti-smoking policies have now become a necessity.

According to data available on Statista, “in 2024, the estimated share of the adult population who smokes daily in Pakistan is 19 per cent.” In this regard, it is good to note that some discussions are taking place in the country to discourage smoking in the country. During an anti-tobacco awareness session hosted by the Centre for Research and Dialogue and IBC, former caretaker health minister Dr Nadeem Jan stressed the need to increase cigarette taxation by 50 per cent. This move can play some part in discouraging people from smoking. He also highlighted misleading campaigns by tobacco companies that, in an attempt to protect their financial interests, argue that high taxation paves the way for illicit tobacco trade in the country. Such assertions create hurdles for authorities who fall behind in introducing necessary anti-smoking policies. But the health impacts of these cigarettes cannot be ignored. The IMF has also proposed taxing e-cigarettes, an equally dangerous alternative, to discourage their consumption.

While this ‘sin tax’ can play a big role in disrupting people’s consumption habits, a lot more needs to be done. Cigarettes are, unfortunately, available in every corner of the country – at supermarkets and in small roadside stores in neighbourhoods. There are no checks on their sale, and even children can buy the product easily. In schools, students in higher grades usually take up smoking to mimic their favourite media personalities. All these factors must be dealt with if we are to decrease smoking habits among people. For one, cigarettes’ sales should be regulated. Only certain licensed shops should be allowed to sell cigarettes to adults – and school- and college-going students should be deterred from buying. Awareness campaigns should be run in schools and other public places to inform people about the harmful effects of cigarettes. There should be strict laws regarding smoking, and people should be banned from smoking in both public and private establishments like restaurants. Strict policies and measures can help a large population of the country abandon a consumption habit that has all the potential to turn fatal.