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Tobacco harmful in all its forms, disguise: WHO


May 30, 2019

LAHORE: On the eve of this year’s World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is calling on people to protect their lungs by not only quitting tobacco smoking but also saying no to secondhand smoke.

Enough scientific evidence is available to prove that tobacco is harmful in all its forms and disguise. It kills over eight million people every year. Tobacco smoking and secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and tuberculosis. Tobacco smoke in itself is a very dangerous form of air pollution. Tobacco smoking is the primary cause for lung cancer, responsible for over two thirds of lung cancer deaths globally.

Tobacco smoke contains over 7000 chemicals, at least 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Second-hand smoke exposure at home or in the workplace also increases the risk of lung cancer.

Additionally, tobacco smoking is the leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a condition where the build-up of pus-filled mucus in the lungs results in a painful cough and agonising breathing difficulties.

The risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases particularly high among individuals who start smoking at a young age, as tobacco smoke significantly slows lung development.

Tobacco also aggravates asthma, which restricts activity and contributes to disability. Furthermore, tuberculosis damages the lungs and reduces lung function, which is further exacerbated by tobacco smoking.

Around 38pc of men and 4pc of women are smokers. In some countries, 57pc of men and 29pc of women smoke. There is huge burden of tobacco use in Pakistan. As many as 19.1 pc adults use tobacco in any form, men 31.8 pc and women 5.8pc and among the youth (13-15 years of age) the prevalence is 13.3 and 6.6 pc among boys and girls respectively.

As per Global Adult Tobacco Survey that was conducted in Pakistan in 2014, the current adult tobacco smokers and smokeless tobacco users were 12.4 pc and 7.7 pc respectively and exposure to secondhand smoke was 48.3pc.

On the conservative estimates keeping in view the increase in population, tobacco attributable deaths may amount to 227,000 per year.

“Smoking among young people is particularly worrying,” says Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, World Health Organisation Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean. “It has reached 42pc in boys and 31pc in girls”. This includes smoking Shisha, which is more popular among young people than cigarettes.

“By 2025, smoking is expected to rise in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, contrary to the trend in the rest of the world,” explains Dr Al-Mandhari. “This will lead to an escalating epidemic of lung disease regionally”.

People must quit smoking to reduce the risk of lung cancer; slow the progression of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; and improve asthma symptoms; raise awareness of the harmful effects of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure; discourage the use of tobacco in any form; advocate for your rights, and let things other than tobacco take your breath away.

Governments made commitments to reduce tobacco use by 30pc by 2025. It’s time to accelerate tobacco control legislation and the implementation of FCTC and MPOWER measures to reduce demand for this deadly product.

“Policies are in place to help achieve this target,” says Dr Al-Mandhari. “The World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and the MPOWER measures to reduce demand for this deadly product can help us beat tobacco and save lives,” he said.

“Stop tobacco from taking your breath away. Tobacco kills one person every 4 seconds. Do not be that person and do not contribute to the death toll,” says Dr. Palitha Mahipal, World Health Organisation Head of Pakistan. He said tobacco is deadly in any form or disguise. Tobacco killed 100 million during the last century and if current trends persist, tobacco, by the end of this century, will kill a billion people or more unless urgent action is taken.

Dr Palitha said that a recent high level World Health Organisation mission on tobacco taxation has held extensive technical discussions with the Federal Bureau of Revenue, met with high-ups and advocated for an immediate elimination of the third-tier and enhanced tobacco taxation and we would see it happening. Dr Palitha advocated for strict Tobacco Control laws; large-sized pictorial health warning on tobacco packs; implementation of “Plain Packaging”; comprehensive ban on Tobacco Advertising Promotion and Sponsorship; enhanced Tobacco Taxation and implementation of “Health Tax” on tobacco products; and continued Health awareness campaigns.