Anti-smoking trends among Pakistanis


'Smoking is injurious to health...' it is quite famous proverb and old as well but didn’t get as much attention with respect to its practical implementation. It is not only inconsiderate to smoke in public places but it is also illegal. It is not only detrimental to one’s health but also to people one’s around. People do have the right to smoke but they are not allowed to make that poison infecting the rest of other people. Smokers are the ones bringing something ugly into the air so they should get away from the other people.

Smoking at the government offices and public places in Pakistan’s Lahore city has been banned few years ago. Meanwhile, a mass awareness drive across the city has been launched regarding tobacco free environment. The District Committee for Tobacco Control (DCTC) has prepared a strategy to ensure smoking free health centers, government offices and public places across the city through implementation of anti-smoking laws. The laws outline punishments for anyone advertising or selling cigarettes near educational institutes.

Smoking trends are seemed to be declining with the passage of time as people are more aware now about the serious effects caused by cigarette smoke. Tobacco not only causes harm to the individual who smokes but it also affects the health of the persons who live, work or travel with the smoker. Obviously, if people smoke in public places, non-smokers have no choice but to become secondhand smokers. There was a time when smokers were found at every public place like in trains, buses and even at airports but smoking epidemic is decreasing steadily now in Pakistan because of public education, awareness and legislative control. But today no one is allowed to smoke or use tobacco in public places under the law. The law declares auditorium buildings, health institutions, amusement centers, restaurants, public offices, court buildings, cinema halls, conference and seminar halls, eating houses, hotel lounges, libraries, bus-stations, sports stadiums, educational institutions and other places as public places.

Increasing literacy rate and ban on smoking by the Pakistani government are the major reasons for awareness of Pakistani people. Anti-smoking campaigns are being practiced more in Pakistan as compared to any other country. Print, electronic and especially social media are in full swing to bring positive aspects of health issues of Pakistani people and playing an active part for anti-smoking campaigns. For example, the horrible image of a severely affected mouth of a patient suffering from mouth cancer apparently due to excessive smoking has been designed on cigarette pack to make people embarrassed. Though smoking is not the actual reason behind it but the Smokeless Tobacco (ST) available in the Pakistani market, the most common ones being ‘naswar’, ‘gutka’, ‘mainpuri’ and crushed tobacco taken with paan. In fact it is the picture-based health warning significant in countries like Pakistan with poor literacy rate and it’s just to make people think about the bad and severe effects of smoking a cigarette.

Also cigarette advertisements in Pakistani media and on billboards have been totally banned to remove their profound and unhealthy influence on public. As ads were seeking to get more people to smoke by conveying the idea that smoking is glamorous. But at the same time, most of the private channels in Pakistan openly show smoking in soaps and serials. This is quite unethical and influences young minds in adopting smoking. If anti-smoking law is already implemented here in Pakistan it doesn’t work because as long as there are cigarettes heck, tobacco leaves are in production, smoking will live one way or another.

According to the proponents of promotion of smoking, the tobacco industry is one of the few revenue generators for the Pakistani government so it’s not in their best interests to reduce it too much. A person having cigarette in hand was considered stylish and so- called cool by the female community few years ago. But now it is not appreciable in Pakistani society. Currently youth is more inclined towards another form of Tobacco i.e Sheesha to look more stylish, burger, trendy and cool. The thing is cigarette has lost its importance and charm and people are no more interested in smoking a cigarette to get popular.

The alternatives of cigarette smoking have been discovered so far. But smoking is smoking. It is nothing more than a slow form of suicide. So it should not be just about protecting some portion of a population from inhaling second-hand smoke but to stop all the population from smoking altogether. It’s not easy but not impossible as well. The only way to completely eradicate this bad practice is to join hands with other Pakistanis and ensure spreading awareness and implementing anti-smoking laws.

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