‘World No Tobacco Day’ was observed in the country on May 31 (Sunday), to create awareness among public about health hazard of tobacco use.
The Day aims to educate people about fighting the global tobacco epidemic.
This year the theme of the day is “Stop Illicit Trade of Tobacco Products”.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco kills nearly 6 million people each year and more than 5 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while more than 600,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
Approximately one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco, accounting for one in 10 adult deaths. Up to half of current users will eventually die of a tobacco-related disease.
Nearly 80% of the more than one billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest, WHO said.
Tobacco users who die prematurely deprive their families of income, raise the cost of health care and hinder economic development.
President of Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH), Maj Gen (Rtd) Masud Ur Rehman Kiani said that second-hand smoke is the smoke that fills restaurants, offices or other enclosed spaces when people burn tobacco products such as cigarettes and water pipes.
He said that there are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer. He added there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.
Commenting on World No Tobacco day, Surgeon General, Lt Gen Azhar Rasheed said that tobacco-related illness is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced.
He said that in adults, second-hand smoke causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. In infants, it causes sudden death while in pregnant women, it causes low birth weight.
He said that tobacco contains a chemical known as nicotine. Smokers can become addicted to this substance, which means they can become dependent on it physically and suffer unpleasant symptoms when it is taken away.
Commandant Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) Maj Gen Shahab Naqvi said that a heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle is decreased or stopped.
This happens when one of the large blood vessels that bring blood to the heart is blocked, usually by a buildup of fatty deposits inside the vessel, he added.
He said that several people die each year in Pakistan from a heart attack.Smokers are twice as likely as nonsmokers to have a heart attack, and 2 to 4 times as likely to die suddenly of heart problems.
Maj Gen Muhammad Ashraf Khan said that a stroke occurs when a blood vessel to the brain is blocked or bursts, which can damage the brain. This is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability. Smoking raises the risk of having a stroke.
He said that lung cancer kills more people than any other kind of cancer and smoking is the direct cause of almost 90 percent of all lung cancer cases.
Former Commandant AFIC and former President PANAH said that for some people, the addiction to nicotine is as strong as that to heroin or cocaine. In fact, when nicotine is breathed in cigarette smoke, it reaches the brain even faster than drugs that enter the body through a vein.
Some people use smokeless tobacco, chewing tobacco, or snuff, because they think it is safer than cigarettes. However, tobacco is tobacco, and it can cause problems in any form, he added.
He said that smokeless tobacco can cause bleeding gums, tooth loss, and sores of the mouth that never heal. Eventually, it can lead to cancer. In addition, young people who use smokeless tobacco are more likely to start using cigarettes, too.
Maj Mushtaq Ahmad said that smokers are more likely to get several kinds of cancer, including that of the mouth, larynx, esophagus, bladder, cervix, pancreas and kidney.
General Secretary PANAH Sanaullah Ghumman said that pictorial warnings on cigarette packs can persuade smokers to protect the health of non-smokers by smoking less inside the home and avoiding smoking near children. He said that studies carried out after the implementation of pictorial package warnings in several countries show that pictorial warnings significantly increase people’s awareness of the harms of tobacco use.
He said that mass media campaigns can also reduce tobacco consumption, by influencing people to protect non-smokers and convincing youth to stop using tobacco.
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