Karachi (PR): Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC) organized an online discussion session on International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Speaking on this year’s theme “Better Knowledge for Better Care”, anti-tobacco activists stressed upon the need to improve the understanding of tobacco smoking as a drug problem and how the improved knowledge will result in reducing its impact on health and governance.
The government has no fresh data of drug users in the country as last national level survey—Drug Use in Pakistan .however it is approximately 6.7 million, 6 percent of the then total population of the country, people between the ages of 15-64 years were using any illicit drug including misuse of prescription drugs. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Pakistan (UNODC) has 6.7 million drug users. Illicit trade of tobacco is on peak as 16% of all cigarettes smoked in Pakistan are illicit, big Tobacco Companies are behind this illicit trade.
Sidra Imran MPA Sindh Assembly from PTI, says. Tobacco smoking not only has physical impacts but psychological impacts on human health too. Tobacco smoking is causing dementia and other serious issues. Passive smoking is deemed equally dangerous for youth and minors. She further says, This is top priority of federal govt to curb the drugs mafia and save our youth.
Kashif Mirza, Manager Communication SPARC said that Use of tobacco smoking in any age is first step which leads to use drugs, in youth is not a matter of personal choice anymore. The issue has become so serious that it should be looked in to immediately as a serious form of drug abuse. He mentioned approximately 1200 children start smoking every day in Pakistan and every year more than 170,000 people die due to diseases caused and aggravated by usage of tobacco products. The majority of drug users fell between 25 and 39 years of age. Cannabis use was highest among people aged 30 to 34 years. Out of 6.7 million drug users, cannabis users were four million, heroin users 0.86 million, opium users 0.32 million, meth addicts 0.019 million, injected drug users 0.43 million, and non-prescription drugs users were 1.6 million.
Shumaila Muzammil Women Rights Activist said: highlighted the need of largescale awareness campaigns. Serious efforts are required from government to eliminate this illicit trade to ensure that tobacco industry doesn’t have excuse to work with.
Prof. Dr. Farah Iqbal, the Chairperson of Psychology Department at the University of Karachi, said that media and lack of governance has normalized the habit of smoking in Pakistan. We often forget the fact that smoking is the initial step for youngsters to get attracted for drugs.
Haris Jadoon, Social Activist, mentioned according Studying Tobacco Users of Pakistan (STOP) survey which was conducted in 10 most populous cities of Pakistan, Approximately, 16% of cigarette packs were found to be illegal. This estimate is much lower than the claims made by the tobacco industry however this number is also an alarming figure.
According to the experts, curbing illicit trade of tobacco products is a much-needed course of action required to save lives, along with strict implementation of laws regarding graphic health warnings, promotion and advertising bans, and smoke-free places.