‘10% more female smokers in colleges and varsities in last few years’


KARACHI – The number of female smokers in the colleges and universities of the country has jumped from six percent to 16 percent in a matter of a few years, disclosed healthcare experts during 12th Biennial Convention of Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) on the topic of ‘Tobacco Control – Key to Disease Prevention’. They expressed grave concern over the popularity of cigarettes among the youth due to their lower prices, saying that cigarettes are cheaper than a loaf of bread in Pakistan. They disclosed that the trend for using shisha or hooka has recently increased by 70 percent as compared to cigarettes, especially among young female students and a research reveals that Pakistanis consume Rs 450 billion worth of tobacco annually.
According to a PIMA press release issued here on Monday, the two-day 12th Biennial Convention of the Association concluded on Sunday evening in Hyderabad. It was attended by renowned consultants, including paediatricians, cardiologists, nutritionists, oncologists, gynaecologists, haematologists and other medical professionals.
A large number of postgraduate students and pharmacists from all parts of Sindh also attended the moot.
Aga Khan University Hospital chest physician Prof Javaid A. Khan said that smoking and chewing tobacco is responsible for 100,000 deaths annually in Pakistan and this could be reduced to a large extent besides saving billions of rupees on treatment if smokers are convinced into quitting smoking. Dr Khan deplored that in countries like Pakistan, a cigarette is cheaper than a loaf of bread and it is becoming popular among youth due to its availability and affordability.
He said that Pakistani tobacco addicts spend billions of rupees annually on tobacco that includes Rs 1.2 billion on smoking cigarettes daily. Millions of rupees are also spent on paan and hooka.
Shishas are 100 times more harmful than cigarettes, as smoking shisha for an hour is equal to smoking 100 cigarettes in the same time.
Shisha contains nicotine and tar and causes lung cancer and heart attacks,” he said, adding that many people consider shisha as a non-hazardous leisurely activity.
“According to a WHO study, parents who only had 15 percent acceptability for smoking, had over 70 percent acceptability for shisha smoking and this is a very alarming trend,” said Dr Khan, adding that there is an immediate need to create awareness regarding the diseases caused by smoking. The chest physician further said although cigarettes and tobacco are very cheaply available in Pakistan, medicines especially Tarceva, which is a drug for the treatment of lung cancer, costs more than $4,000 per month, making it is unaffordable for the majority of the public.
He concluded that adopting various recommendations of national and international experts on tobacco control including ban on smoking on public places, prohibition of its sale to youth, imposing a ban on second-hand smoking, and creating awareness on its hazards instead of its promotion through advertisements could result in a decrease in thousands of preventable diseases. Renowned health expert and paediatrician Prof Dr Ghaffar A Billoo said that the need for creating awareness about prevention of diseases instead of spending money on treatment.
He maintained that many fatal diseases among children could be prevented through proper immunisation while more effective vaccines are being prepared and used in the developed world for diseases such as cervical cancer. “Similarly, many genetic diseases including thalassaemia could be avoided by proper blood screening of males and females prior to their marriages,” he said. Prof Sohail Akhtar gave a detailed presentation on the relief activities of the health association and urged its members to volunteer more time and money for the suffering humanity.
The speakers demanded that the government should improve the working conditions at public hospitals, provide better economic packages to health professionals, provide jobs to unemployed doctors and also provide protection to them from extortionists and anti-social elements.