June 09 - 15, 2008

'World No Tobacco Day' was observed in Pakistan like other parts of the world on May 31, in a bid to draw attention to the global health burden resulting from tobacco use.

Several events were organized both at public and private levels in order to create awareness among masses regarding health hazard effects of smoking. With theme-Tobacco Free Youth-this year's observance focuses on creating awareness among youths so as to persuade them to lead a healthy life.

The day was observed with an aim to raise awareness about the harmful health effects of all forms of tobacco like cigarettes (including light, low-tar, and mild), smokeless tobacco, bidis, kreteks, clove cigarettes, cigars, shisha (flavored tobacco smoked in a hookah pipe) and others.

Many studies have shown that in the poorest households in some low-income countries as much as 10% of total household expenditure is on tobacco. This means that these families have less money to spend on basic items such as food, education and health care. In addition to its direct health effects, tobacco leads to malnutrition, increased health care costs and premature death. It also contributes to a higher illiteracy rate, since money that could have been used for education is spent on tobacco instead.

Addressing various functions, speakers agreed that 'tobacco is the second major cause of death in the world and is responsible for approximately one in 10 premature deaths among adults worldwide (about 5 million deaths each year). The global burden of deaths attributable to tobacco use each year is estimated to double if current smoking patterns continue. It will cause some 10 million deaths each year and half the people that smoke today -that is about 650 million people will eventually be killed by tobacco'.

Pakistan Medical Society (PMS) in collaboration with the University of Veterinary & Animal Sciences (UVAS) also organised a seminar in which among others UVAS VC Prof Mohammad Nawaz, Prof Mohammad Amjad of College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (CPSP), Prof Munir Saleemi of King Edward Medical University, Prof Azeem Jehangir of Sir Gangaram Hospital, Dr Masood Sheikh of PMS and Dr Sadeen Khalid addressed.

Speaking on the occasion, Prof Nawaz said smoking beyond any doubt causes many diseases and ailments. Smoking causes heart attacks, cancer of lungs of oral cavity, cancer of esophagus, cancer of sound box (larynx), lung diseases like chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

He said smoking is also an important risk factor for stroke, as it exerts both acute and long term hazardous effects. Smoking has adverse effects on blood pressure, increases sympathetic tone and heart rate therefore people should give up smoking for enjoying quality life.

Prof Azeem Jehangir said smoking decreases oxygen supply to the heart and enhances the process of atherosclerosis. This adverse effect of smoking is related to the amount of tobacco smoked daily and to the duration of smoking.

The effect is present in both men and women, and may be even stronger in women, he said, adding that smoking increases the risk of heart disease three times as compared to non smokers. It greatly increases the danger to have heart attack when other risk factors like Hypertension or Diabetes Mellitus are also present in an individual.

Smoking increases blood to clot. It decreases HDL (good) cholesterol. Risk increases greatly if one smokes and has a family history of heart disease. It also increases the risk of recurrent heart attack after bypass surgery of the heart, he added.

Dr Masood Sheikh said that smokeless tobacco causes oral cancer and might be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, bidis increase the risk for oral, lung, and esophageal cancers while water-pipe smoking increases the risk for oral and lip cancer and obstructive lung disease. In addition to the high public health costs of treating tobacco-caused diseases, tobacco kills people at the height of their productivity, depriving families of breadwinners and nations of a healthy workforce, he said. Tobacco users are also less productive while they are alive due to increased sickness.

Maulana Akram Kashmiri urged the youths to follow Islamic teachings that will help overcome the bad habit of smoking. He said ban on smoking must be implemented in letter and spirit.

Moreover, WHO has called on governments to impose a ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship to deter young people around the world from taking up smoking. A global survey found that over half of 13- to 15-yearolds reported seeing billboard advertisements for cigarettes in the past month. Low-and middle-income countries are the worst affected by the diseases such as cardiovascular, diabetes, cancers and chronic respiratory diseases that cause 60 percent of all deaths globally.