Experts warn increasing smoking trend in girls

ISLAMABAD: The health experts at the National Dialogue organized on Tuesday under the auspices of Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) to expose the propaganda of “Tobacco Harms and Tobacco Industry Tactic” warned that the trend of taking up smoking was gaining more attraction in girls than boys that needed urgent attention of the stakeholders.

The purpose of the dialogue was to expose the misleading campaign of the tobacco industry called ‘Behtr Pakistan’. The campaign was only propaganda of the industry that exaggerated illicit trade share so that tax increase on tobacco could be avoided, the experts said.

Speaking on the occasion, Chairperson National Commission on the Rights of the Child Afshan Tehseen Bajwa said that due to the attracting tactics and campaigns of tobacco industry around 1,200 school going children used to start smoking daily.

“Among the children girls are particularly more tempted to opt for smoking and there number is growing at an alarming pace where smoking has become a norm among such young girls’ cohort that is an alarming indicator,” she added.

Bajwa urged to promote role models and effective parenting among the youth to contain smoking.   The experts hailing from Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) and others indicated that raising taxes on tobacco was the single most effective policy to reduce its consumption.

According to WHO 10% increase in tobacco taxes results in 8% reduction in tobacco consumption, they added.  Medical expert Professor Dr Colonel (R) Shakeel Ahmad Mirza said tobacco use was a leading cause for the most non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Pakistan. “It leads to cardiovascular diseases and several forms of cancer as well

There are about 69 different forms of carcinogens in tobacco,” he added.  A representative of the PIDE said in her study that 170,000 deaths were caused by tobacco every year.  The tobacco industry contributes only Rs114 billion, in return for which the government faced an economic burden of Rs615 billion annually on tobacco related diseases.

Senior Journalists Khalid Azeem, Aziz Alvi,Tazeen Akhtar, and others said that people should not be a part of any campaign without knowing the real facts but should give priority to the opinion of experts.

Vice Chancellor Health Services Academy Dr Shehzad Ali Khan said the tobacco industry gave wrong statistics about illegal trade.So that is why the tobacco tax could not be increased even once in the last three years.

Guest of Honor Parliamentary Secretary MNA Dr Nausheen Hamid said the medical and economic experts present in today’s National Dialogue provided us with important information and would be considered sincerely to guide policy making.

Member National Assembly (MNA) Uzma Riaz said the role mothers was critical in containing increased tobacco consumption among the youth. However, 170,000 deaths due to tobacco per year were a cause of concern whereas all of the stakeholders should be part of the PANAH awareness campaign.

In his vote of thanks, President PANAH Major (R) Masood-ur-Rehman Kayani said the purpose of holding the dialogue was to pave way for legislation in the light of expert opinion. “Such dialogues should be held in the future as well, so that the public can be made aware of the dangers of tobacco,” he concluded.

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