Curbing the Tobacco Menace in Pakistan
According to a recent report, the rate of tobacco consumption is increasing globally despite extensive efforts and widespread anti-smoking campaigns. In the report, it was also highlighted that Pakistan is one of fastest growing market for tobacco products in Asia-Pacific regions. This high rate of smoking is alarming, and we need to do something to reduce it. Failure to restrict tobacco consumption will not only affect current generation but the impact will be seen for next few generations. It is time for some soul searching and to look for the cause of this failure.
Behavior plays an important role in the creating the addiction to tobacco. Most of the countries have done extensive efforts to make these products less appealing. Ban on advertisement of tobacco products and graphic pictures on the packaging are some of the steps, which have been implemented by most of the countries. The result of these measures can be seen by declining smoking rates over past few decades in some of the developed countries.
The positive effect of this decline can be seen in the decreasing incidence of smoking related malignancies especially lung cancer in these countries. But it looks like that these measures have failed in Pakistan. The only explanation for this, is poor planning and lack of government interest.
We should learn from the experience of other countries and tailor our efforts according to our needs. In recent times many new ideas are proposed to make cigarettes less appealing to masses, and plain packaging of tobacco products is one novel idea which is gaining popularity worldwide. It is a logo free, plain paper packaging with brand name written in small text.
Along with that a large pictorial message on the front of the packet warns the consumers of adverse effects of smoking. Studies have shown it to be very effective way of reducing the rate of smoking. Particularly the olive or brown colored paper have been shown to be more unappealing to young people.
Many countries are moving forward to enforce the plain packaging. Australia has implemented this as a law in 2012, making it mandatory for every tobacco products to be sold in plain packages. Initial result have shown that sales are consistently decreasing since this law has been implemented. Recently, UK and Ireland have passed similar legislations, which will come into effect in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Another issue is adoption of this habit among women. Recently a study showed that the prevalence of tobacco use is about 65% in women in some cities of Pakistan. Traditionally men had higher prevalence of smoking, so most of the anti-tobacco campaign were focused on them.
With this change in the demographics, time has come to pay attention to women too. Government should redesign its anti-tobacco campaign to make it more effective among women. Most of the women take up this habit when they are young, so special attention should be paid to those who are studying in colleges or university.
Even with the recent failure, there is hope that we can overcome this problem. It is the duty of every responsible citizen in general and medical community in particular to play its role; by creating popular awareness, and by helping move a bill for plain packaging forward. If we achieve this, then we can become one of those countries where rate of consumption is least. This is the only way to make our society healthier.
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