World No Tobacco Day is an annual event that is observed on May 31 to spread awareness about the harmful effects of smoking and consumption of tobacco on health.
The campaign aims to reduce the prevalence of diseases and deaths due to the consumption of tobacco. This year, the main focus is on protecting young people from the marketing of big tobacco companies and helping them avoid using tobacco and nicotine.
The World Health Organization (WHO) sponsors this awareness day every year to highlight the health risks of using tobacco and encourage governments to implement policies that help reduce smoking and use of other tobacco products.
According to the WHO, eight million people die as a result of tobacco use every year. It is responsible for lung diseases and other respiratory disorders including tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), oral and lung cancers.
This year, WHO is encouraging efforts to empower young people stand up to big tobacco companies by resisting their ads and marketing, refusing to use any tobacco or nicotine products (including e-cigarettes and other vaping devices), and help spread the message among their friends.
WHO is also working to expose ways tobacco companies market their products to young people. They are encouraging renowned personalities, media, and others including parents and teachers to protect young people from these harmful messages.
Studies show that most people who smoke started when they were teenagers. The younger someone is when they begin to use tobacco and nicotine products, the more likely they are to become addicted. This is why it is important for young people to stay away from smoking and vaping.
Smoking in Pakistan
Smoking and the use of tobacco and nicotine products is widely prevalent in Pakistan. It is estimated that the prevalence of tobacco smoking is 36% for males and 9% for females.
Among young adults, especially university students, the prevalence of smoking is 15% with the majority being male smokers. Approximately 1,200 children start smoking everyday. An astounding one billion cigarettes are consumed every day in Pakistan.
The reason young people start to smoke is complex and includes a wide range of biological, social and environmental factors including exposure to smoking by parents, siblings, friends and general public.
The youth generations must be urgently protected from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of consumption and exposure to tobacco.
Governments should use tobacco control measures in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) to reduce the prevalence of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.
Pakistan became a Party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on February 27, 2005. Smoking is prohibited in all places of public work or use, and on all public transport.
We are not even aware of this law and continue to smoke in public places. With respect to outdoor areas, smoking is prohibited in outdoor waiting areas for buses and trains.
Most forms of tobacco advertising and promotion are prohibited, including advertising on TV, radio, print media, billboards, point of sale advertising and product display and direct targeting of individuals while there are restrictions on tobacco sponsorship.
Tobacco Packaging and Labeling
The Ministry of Health has issued one warning containing both a picture and text that must be placed on all cigarette packs. The warning must occupy 60 percent of the pack and be placed on the front top of the pack in Urdu and on the back top of the pack in English.
Health warnings are not required on smokeless tobacco products. In Pakistan, the law does not grant the authority to regulate the contents of cigarettes. The law also does not require manufacturers and importers to disclose contents and emissions of their products.
The law prohibits the sale of smoked tobacco products within 50 meters of any school, university, or educational institution, as well as the sale of single cigarettes and small packets of cigarettes.
The sale of tobacco products is prohibited to persons under the age of 18. The retail sale of e-cigarettes is allowed and there are no restrictions on the use, advertising, promotion and sponsorship or packaging and labeling of e-cigarettes.
Smoking is a highly addictive and harmful habit and smokers should quit. Counselling and medication can more than double a person’s chance of successfully quitting.
Health professionals have the greatest potential of any group in society to promote the reduction of tobacco use. Brief advice from health professionals can increase quitting success rates by up to 30%, while intensive advice increases the chance of quitting by 84%.
Quitting smoking decreases the excess risk of many diseases related to second-hand smoke in children, such as respiratory diseases (e.g., asthma) and ear infections. It also reduces the chances of impotence, having difficulty getting pregnant, premature births, babies with low birth weights and miscarriage.
If you are in your 30s then quitting smoking can add almost ten years to your life expectancy. Even if you are in your 60s you can gain three years of life expectancy if you quit smoking. This requires immense willpower and determination but you can quit smoking for a healthy and happy life.