Pakistan Leads in Illicit Cigarette Sales in Asia
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Rampant use of tobacco products puts future of youngsters in jeopardy

Tobacco use is one of the most dreadful social evils that had negatively impacted social values and exposed the young generation to several ailments caused due to excessive use of cigarettes, cigars, hookah, ice-drugs and others tobacco products.

Affecting all segments of society, the growing consumption of tobacco products have shaken the foundation of the entire social edifice and endangered the future of youngsters and students causing damage beyond the recovery.

According to a Global Youth Tobacco Survey, about 1,200 children aged 6 –15 years start smoking every day in Pakistan. On the other hand, Chromatic Trust, an Islamabad based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) has revealed that in Pakistan on an average 5,000 people were get admitted to hospitals per day due to tobacco-related diseases and over 100,000 die every year. It said if tobacco consumption continues at the existing pace, this figure is expected to rise significantly by 2030.

As per the available data, Pakistan is ranked 54th among 84 countries with high prevalence of tobacco usage. Among the young population, 10.7 percent of all youth, including 6.6 percent girls and 13.3 percent boys, consume tobacco products due to various reasons.

Professor Dr. Khalid Mufti, a renowned psychiatrist and former Principal of Khyber Medical College Peshawar told APP that use of tobacco products often leads to drug addiction besides distorting and retarding mental and psychological health of its victims.

“In many cases youngsters who use tobacco off and on are seen using various kinds of drugs frequently and become a burden on society,” he said, adding that implications of drug addiction includes increasing tendency crimes and mental and psychological disorders. He said smoking was believed to be one of the main causes of high mortality among people that are suffering from chest, respiratory and severe mental health disorders.  He said that quitting heroin and hashish smoking was difficult and required family extended support to bring its victims into the mainstream of the society.

He said quitting smoking leads to improvement of mental health, control of anxiety and depression besides boosting immunity system against different diseases. He warned that continuous smoking of tobacco products exacerbates fatal diseases such as lung cancer.

Dr. Mufti stressed for community mobilization and public awareness campaigns for betterment of the addicted people. He said proper counseling at school and college level was also vital to control tobacco consumption. He said, “Youngsters mostly school and college going students who get involved in tobacco use at early age often become drug addicts in later phases and become a stigma on society.”

“The factors behind rampant use of tobacco should be considered seriously while devising a plan to control smoking”, Dr. Mufti said. “Increasing depression and despondency among youngsters is also a reason behind high tobacco consumption and added that reasons behind these factors should be kept in mind while preparing any kind of future plans and strategies.

Muhammad Sajad, a college Lecturer told the news agency, “Use of ice drugs were increasing in educational institutions and we need to protect our future generation through strict implementation of laws.” He said that hashish and heroin addicts can be seen at Gulbahar, Faqirabad, Karakhano market and other areas under bridges and flyovers which showed socioeconomic imbalances in the society.

He said that uncertainty of the future is also a reason negatively impacting the minds and psychology of students and pushing them towards various forms of drug addiction. The dream of development and prosperity, he said, could not be materialized without their capacity building.

 “Tobacco and all its forms should be prohibited and students to be made aware of the perils associated with tobacco consumption,” he suggested. He said that persistent use of tobacco products is on rise in society due to a lack of understanding and illiteracy and the extent of tobacco related hazards to health and environment.

Dr. Nek Dad Afridi, Director Public Health Services KP said, “Each and every member of society should play its constructive role to create awareness amongst people about the perils and hazards associated with tobacco use and great responsibility rests on the media, religious scholars and LG representatives to spread awareness against it,” he said.

“The government is working on different dimensions of this serious problem and formed a provincial roadmap for tobacco control by using innovative and targeted interventions besides aligned the strategy with the World Health Organization (WHO) to protect people from its negative effects,” he added.

“We aim to achieve targets of effective implementation of the roadmap on tobacco control by partnering with non -governmental stakeholders,” he said and added that collective responsibilities are of vital importance for drug free Pakistan.

Commissioner Peshawar Division, Riaz Khan Mehsud said that the second phase of Drugs free Peshawar has been launched and drug victims were being shifted to rehabilitation centres for making them productive segments for the society.

Besides three months treatment, he said vocational training was also being imparted to drug addicts in these centres to make them useful citizens of the society and enabled them to earn livelihood in a dignified way.

Ehtisham Khan, a resident of Wapda Town Peshawar said that he started smoking in college days after a friend offered him cigarette in a bid to relieve pressure of the FSc examination.

“Cigarette smoking and later hashish did not improve my grades in the examinations but deprived me of self-respect and dignity in the society,” the 27-year-old smoker who did his BS in Urdu Literature from Govt College Peshawar told.

He said mostly drug addicts were mocked by youth and children mainly due to their appearances and begging becomes their habits for purchase of narcotics  which become a stigma for the society.

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