LAHORE:To mark this year’s World No Tobacco Day on May 31, 2022, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, Lahore, organised a live digital awareness session. The panellists included Dr Aasim Yusuf (Chief Medical Officer of SKMCH&RC), Dr Imran ul Hasan (Consultant Pulmonologist), Dr Umme Kalsoom (Consultant Medical Oncologist) and Ms Nasira Hayat (Psychologist).
On this occasion, Dr Aasim Yusuf said that according to WHO, 24 million people in Pakistan use tobacco and according to Global Burden of Disease statistics (2019), 160,000 die due to tobacco related diseases in our country.
He said that it is important for people to understand the tobacco industry’s marketing efforts to preferentially target people in low- and middle-income countries because it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to sell their products in high-income Western countries. He went on to say that data from the Shaukat Khanum Cancer Registry shows that cancers linked with the use of tobacco remain in the list of top 10 cancers seen at Shaukat Khanum Hospitals. Therefore, it is important to raise awareness on the harmful effects of tobacco. This year, WHO selected the theme “Tobacco: Threat to Our Environment” which aimed to raise awareness about the ill effects of tobacco on smokers and also non-smokers by harming the environment throughout its life-cycle. WHO estimates that for every 300 cigarettes that are produced, one tree is cut down. Dr Aasim explained that if a person smokes one pack a day then in one month, at least two trees are cut down somewhere in the world to cater to the demand of cigarette consumption for that person alone. Tobacco cultivation uses precious resources of land and water that can be used to cultivate other useful crops. He further added that raising awareness about prevention of cancer is an important element of SKMCH&RC’s mission statement and each year around World No Tobacco Day, the Hospital organises a poster competition for school children and awareness sessions for students to highlight the harmful effects of tobacco. Dr Imran ul Hasan, pulmonologist, said that smoking affects a person from head to toe which includes illnesses such as stroke, heart diseases, lung diseases, diabetes, and vasoconstriction in legs that can lead to amputation.
There is also financial burden and a host of other issues related to smoking. Smoking also increases the risk of many different types of cancers. Dr Imran also informed that people who have smoked for many years should consult their doctor for lung cancer screening with low dose CT scan, the only recommended screening test for lung cancer, because prevention and early detection are better than cure. Especially in lung cancer, medical oncologist Dr Umme Kalsoom explained, five-year survival rates are very low for small cell lung cancer. Dr Umme Kalsoom also spoke about harmful effects of smoking on women that include infertility and harmful effects on babies of pregnant women who smoke. Ms Nasira Hayat, psychologist, discussed nicotine dependence and five ways that can help people who wish to quit tobacco and these are finding your reason to quit, finding your support system during the quit journey, maintaining a quit journal to understand the cycle of your triggers, making your environment smoke proof, and setting a reminder for yourself about your intention to quit. The participants discouraged e-cigarettes and said that e-cigarettes do not burn tobacco but still have nicotine, which has harmful effects and therefore, these should not be used as a replacement of cigarettes. In the end, Mr Hussain Ahmed, Director of Business Operations at SKMCH&RC and host of the awareness session, concluded that tobacco has direct effects on people’s health and also ill effects on the environment which should give tobacco users an additional reason to quit.
It is best not to start using tobacco because it is difficult to let go but it is important to know that quitting tobacco is possible. You can take professional help or help of your social circle, provided that you have a strong will to quit.