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April 16, 2019

Govt takes steps to make capital tobacco-free city: Kiani


April 16, 2019

Islamabad : The Pakistan Monument and the Lok Virsa Complex were declared ‘Tobacco Smoke-Free Zones,’ here Monday as part of an ongoing project that seeks to promote smoke-free environments at public places, healthcare establishments, educational institutes, and public transport.

Federal Minister for National Health Services Aamer Mehmood Kiani, who was the chief guest on the occasion, pledged the Ministry’s commitment to making Islamabad the most beautiful capital of the world in terms of its ambience and environment.

After Pakistan Monument, the Lok Virsa Complex is the 214th public place in Islamabad Capital Territory to have been declared smoke-free.

Taking about the national burden of tobacco use, Aamer said Pakistan is amongst the world’s 15 countries with the highest burden of tobacco-related illnesses. According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2014, about 24 million adult population in the country use tobacco in any of its forms. Tobacco prevalence among youth stands at 10.7%. Tobacco is killing around 160,100 Pakistanis every year.

The Tobacco Control Cell of the Ministry of Health is taking demand and supply reduction measures to reduce prevalence of tobacco. Significant efforts have been made in this regard, such as banning the sale of loose cigarette sticks, notifying an increase in the size of pictorial health warning on cigarette packs to 60%, and banning the import of ‘sheesha’ among others.

The ‘Tobacco Smoke-Free Capital’ initiative is playing a vital role in prevention of deadly tobacco-induced diseases like cancer. The Country office of World Health Organization, The Union, and International Atomic Energy Agency are providing valuable technical support to Pakistan in its endeavor to curb tobacco use. Collectively, the initiative has thus made its impression on the international public health community due to its innovative approaches.

Aamer said, the Ministry of Health is in the process of developing a National Cancer Control Plan “Smoke-free environments at public places and public transport is one large building block in the edifice of cancer prevention and control. The Pakistan Medical & Dental Council will also incorporate the subject of ‘Health Hazards of Tobacco use’ in the basic medical curriculum. Together, we will be able to rid our future generations of the menace of tobacco use,”Aamer stated.

Earlier, Dr. Minhaj-us-Siraj, Project Director of the Tobacco Smoke-Free Capital, gave a presentation on the initiative. He shared that according to WHO country profile, tobacco use is harmfully impacting our economy and environment. “Pakistan is suffering from 11.6 million DALYs (Disability Adjusted Life Years), annually, of which 8 million is attributed to disease and disability caused by tobacco use. This translates into immense loss of workers’ productivity and resultantly, a negative impact on the economy,” Dr. Minhaj stated.

Every year in Pakistan, 280,000 tonnes of firewood is burnt to roast tobacco products in 35,000 barns; this comes to almost 20% of our annual firewood production. “The Pakistan Tobacco Board stills asks the federal government to spend over Rs300 million rupees for reforestation due to heavy loss of our forest reserves caused by the tobacco industry,” Dr. Mihaj shared.

Dr. Minhaj equated tobacco control in Pakistan to walking on a very tight rope over a mountain. “The tobacco industry in Pakistan has the legal support of the Pakistan Tobacco Board, the Federal Board of Revenue, Ministry of Commerce, and the Export Promotion Bureau, as well as Tobacco Growers’ Association, Sheesha Smokers’ Associations and several human rights activists. Control can only be exerted on the way this legal and deadly product is consumed, Dr. Minhaj pointed out. Dr. Foaud Aslam, Technical Advisor of the Bloomberg Initiative, also spoke on the occasion.

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