“Tobacco use takes a toll on 8 million lives across the globe annually. Alarmingly, a person dies of tobacco-related diseases every four seconds in the world.” Dr. Palitha Mahipala, WHO Representative in Pakistan.
He shared these statistics while speaking at the signing ceremony of Letter of Intent among the World Health Organization (WHO), Ministry of National Health Services Regulations & Coordination (MNHSRC), and Pakistan Red Crescent (PRC) in Islamabad.
The event was organized in connection with World No Tobacco Day, which was being celebrated all over the world under the theme of “Commit to Quit.”
Dr. Faisal Sultan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health, was the chief guest on the occasion. Also present were, Chairman PRC, Abrar ul Haq, Dr. Minhaj-us-Siraj, Project Director Tobacco-Free Cities; Dr. Samra Mahar, Deputy Director Programmes at MNHSRC and Shahzad Alam Khan, NPO Tobacco Control. The event was also attended by public health experts, anti-tobacco activists, and representatives from civil society organizations.
World No Tobacco Day is observed around the world every year on 31 May. This annual celebration informs the public of the dangers of using tobacco and the harmful business practices of tobacco companies. The day also highlights WHO’s commitment to fighting the tobacco epidemic, and what people around the world can do to claim their right to health and healthy living.
Meanwhile, Dr. Palitha informed the audience that Pakistan was losing over 163,000 lives owing to tobacco use annually. “Alarmingly over 400 people are dying of tobacco in Pakistan every day,” he remarked.
He lauded the efforts of the Government of Pakistan for taking several crucial measures to control tobacco use. These include large-sized pictorial health warnings, a ban on the sale of loose cigarettes, a ban on point-of-sale of tobacco products, and enhancement in tobacco taxation. Dr. Palitha also congratulated the government on the World No Tobacco Day Award.
WHO’s representative in Pakistan advocated for higher tobacco taxation during the upcoming fiscal budget. “There is a need to make cigarettes unaffordable,” he commented. He also urged for the implementation of a “health levy or health tax” that could be utilized for health promotion.
He also referred to WHO Best Buys for the prevention and control of NCDs and the prevention of NCDs risk factors including tobacco use. He informed the audience that to date WHO had donated 10 open gyms and three indoor gyms to curb the epidemic of inactivity.
Dr. Faisal Sultan in his remarks praised WHO for its support towards health promotion. He informed the participants that the government was not oblivious to the gravity of the situation and that the present government was taking stringent measures to curb tobacco use in the country. “I have talked to the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister for raising tobacco taxation,” he informed.
Chairman PRC, Abrar-ul-Haq, expressed his full support for the cause. He emphasized the implementation of prevention measures that could potentially save thousands of lives each year.
Later, Dr. Faisal Sultan and Dr. Palitha jointly unveiled a plaque that declared PRC tobacco-free.
WHO also organized a cycle rally and walk to mark the World No Tobacco Day
WHO in collaboration with the MNHSRC organized a cycle rally coupled with a walk to mark World No Tobacco Day. Dr. Nousheen Hamid, Parliamentary Secretary of Health, was the chief guest.
The rally and walk were attended by scores of young doctors, representatives of youth organizations, and anti-tobacco activists. Ensuring strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols, the participants maintained social distance and wore masks throughout the event.
In the end, Dr. Palitha and Dr. Nousheen addressed the participants.
Dr. Nousheen Hamid apprised the audience of the steps taken by the government of Pakistan towards tobacco control. She expressed the government’s full resolve to control the epidemic of tobacco in Pakistan.