The danger that lurks in cafes, restaurants and food courts


Smoking in developing countries like Pakistan is on the rise and has turned into global epidemic that the World Health Organisation estimates has already killed a hundred million people during the last 100 years and could kill one billion more during this century. Pakistan is amongst the first set of parties to ratify the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, enforced in 2005, a landmark for the promotion of public health that sets out to control the use of tobacco worldwide. But despite various laws restricting smoking in public places such as restaurants and cafes, the menace of smoking in Pakistan is increasing. A recent study on tobacco pollution in public eating places, conducted by Professor Javaid A Khan, Head, Section of Pulmonary Diseases, Aga Khan University Hospital reveals that tobacco smoke pollution (TSP) levels in cafes, restaurants and food courts in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Karachi, remain extremely high.
TSP levels are assessed by measuring the level of pollutants in the air, particularly fine particles called PM2.5 in a given area. In non-smoking venues, the mean PM2.5 value was 101 micrograms per square meter (?g/m2), in hotels and restaurants 689 ?g/m2 and 1,745 ?g/m2 in shisha smoking venues. Under WHO guidelines, PM2.5 levels of 250 ?g/m2 and above are considered ‘hazardous’ for health, which means that the public venues still allowing cigarette smoking are failing to meet international health standards.
The growing epidemic of shisha, a lethal add-on as a menu item in public cafes and restaurants is another cause of concern. According to research conducted by WHO an average pipe smoking session of around an hour is equivalent to smoking up to 200 cigarettes. This makes No Tobacco Day, being observed globally on May 31, extremely important. It is an opportunity to create public awareness about the measures required to eliminate the menace of smoking from society. It not only promotes this year’s theme of enforcing the WHO Convention on Tobacco Control, but also refocuses attention on measures such as increasing taxation on tobacco products, placing comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising and promotion, spreading public awareness through media campaigns and strong health messages on tobacco products, placing restrictions on smoking in public and work places and perhaps most importantly, supporting smokers to quit.
The Aga Khan University in collaboration with National Alliance for Tobacco Control, Pakistan Medical Association and Pakistan Chest Society is holding a seminar to mark World No Tobacco Day today (Tuesday).


  1. Time has come that we boycott the restaurant which are not providing smoke free environment to its customers.

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