World No Tobacco Day
ISLAMABAD, (Parliament Times) : On an average, around 5,000 people are admitted to hospitals every day in the country due to tobacco-related diseases and over 100,000 die every year. If tobacco consumption continues at the current pace, this figure is expected to rise significantly by 2030. Such a situation would prevent Pakistan from achieving the sustainable development agenda, which aims at reducing deaths from tobacco-related diseases by a third by 2030.
In the wake of the tobacco crisis, deaths, and diseases, the World Health Organization (WHO) member countries observe World No Tobacco Day on May 31 to raise awareness about the damage caused by tobacco products.
Chromatic Trust commemorating “World No Tobacco Day,” launched a country wide drive of Anti-Tobacco Clubs to raise public awareness on hazards of tobacco consumption and its pledge to limit tobacco usage and safeguard people’s right to the best possible health.
Pakistan is ranked 54th amongst 84 countries with high prevalence of tobacco smoking. Among the young population, 10.7 percent of all youth including 6.6 percent girls and 13.3 percent boys consume tobacco or tobacco products. The tobacco industry is aggressively targeting youth, especially girls, via tobacco advertisements, products display, and sales.
Therefore, it is important to have a vocal youth base which will be crucial in pressing for reforms at a policy level.
To take the aim further, Chromatic Trust with CTFK partner organizations have formed Anti-Tobacco Clubs to engage universities to encourage participation of students in discourse on tobacco control. Through these clubs students will create awareness among fellows and peers on harms of tobacco consumption. They will sensitize masses and advocate for higher tobacco taxes to put an end to this rampantly growing trend of smoking among youth.
Shariq Mehmood Khan, CEO Trust Chromatic while talking to the guests of the ceremony said that Pakistani youth makes about 60% of the total population therefore; it is the government’s responsibility and right of children to be given protection from the menace of tobacco. Heavy taxation on tobacco products would not only reduce the tobacco consumption but will also keep the minors away from tobacco.
“The government needs to take action and since the budget is near, it is the right time to raise taxes on tobacco at least by 30 percent,” he said.
Malik Imran Ahmed, Country Representative CTFK said that about 1200 kids between 6 and 15 years of age start smoking in Pakistan on a daily basis. While on the other hand developed countries are on their way to make future generations tobacco-free by using measures such as policy change and higher taxation to make tobacco less accessible for its people especially youth.
“These clubs represent the true voices of our youth and their aim to make people aware of the menace of tobacco is applaudable”, he said.
Senator Yousaf Raza Gilani, former Prime Minister of Pakistan alarmed by current figures of tobacco smoking among youth urged students to adopt healthy lifestyle and emphasized the need of higher taxation, which will not only stop students from tobacco consumption but will also help in revenue generation that can be utilized in the education sector. Mr Gilani said that public representatives must create awareness on anti- tobacco measures and further assured that tobacco taxation will be debated and highlighted in the Senate and National Assembly so that stronger legislation can be enacted to curb tobacco consumption.
“Looking at the active participation of students for such a social cause is making me so proud that the children of Pakistan know what is good for them and I am now sure that the future of Pakistan is in right hands”, Mr Gilani added.
Amina Sheikh, Member Central Working Committee PML-N and Constitutional Law Expert while talking to students said that it’s the constitutional right of every citizen to live a healthy life. It is our social responsibility to take part to curb this tobacco menace. With every burning cigarette we are destroying the future of our children who have become vulnerable to tobacco addiction, which is also causing loss in their productivity. She said that cigarette prices are the cheapest in Pakistan as compared to other countries in South Asia, therefore taxes on tobacco products need to be increased to make it out of the purchasing power of the youth.
Ms Amina also encouraged students to take active part in the campaign and raise awareness on hazards and negative effects of tobacco on human health so that youth cannot be lured into smoking. She also pleaded to be Chromatic’s anti-tobacco advocate in the political arena.
Dr Ziauddin Islam, Country Lead Vital Strategies, Former Technical Head of Tobacco Control Cell, Government of Pakistan said that as we mark World No Tobacco Day it is important for government to increase prices of tobacco products as majority of smokers in Pakistan will choose to quit or reduce smoking in response to price increase, therefore the tax increase on tobacco products is an effective tool to discourage smoking and boost the government’s revenue. He also stressed that if stronger legislation is placed the time is not far that Pakistan’s youth will become tobacco free.
The event concluded with poster displays and speeches by the students from different schools and universities.