ISLAMABAD: Around 1,200 children start smoking every day in Pakistan, Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of National Health Services, Dr Nausheen Hamid, said on Thursday.
Tobacco use is the world’s leading cause of preventable death and serious illness, killing an estimated 6 million people each year, according to a youth tobacco report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most smokers take up the habit in their teens, with roughly 11 percent of youth aged 13 to 15 around the world using tobacco products like cigarettes and cigars.
“The data we have has shown that children between ages of 6 and 12 are also among those children who start smoking every day,” Hamid, who is a member of the national assembly from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party, said, adding that more than 160,000 people died every year in Pakistan because of tobacco use.
“The tobacco industry tries to attract young generations [to become users],” she said.
In recent years, Pakistan has introduced several measures to control tobacco use, including banning smoking in all places of public work or use, and on all public transport.
Laws in Pakistan also prohibit the sale of smoked tobacco products within 50 meters of any school, university, or educational institution, as well as the sale of single cigarettes and small packets of cigarettes. The sale of tobacco products is not allowed to persons under the age of 18.
Many forms of tobacco advertising and promotion are also banned, including advertising on domestic TV, radio and print media.
According to data available on the Pakistani health ministry’s tobacco control cell, there are 23.9 million tobacco users in the country, of whom 15.6 million are smokers.
“5,000 Pakistanis are admitted to hospitals every day because of tobacco,” the cell said, “and 39 percent of households are exposed daily to secondhand tobacco smoke.”