Voices Against Tobacco (VAT), an initiative of Indus Hospital & Health Network (IHHN), recognized World No Tobacco Day, May 31st 2022, in a panel discussion covering various impacts of tobacco on Pakistan’s communities, held at Indus Hospital and Health Network, main campus in Karachi.
The session discussed the current status of tobacco use in Pakistan, what policies should be in place to curb prevalence of tobacco, how tobacco use continues to harm our environment, and perspectives from the community.
Notable guests included Dr. Sohail Akhtar, Professor & Senior Consultant, Pulmonology, IHHN, Dr. Muhammad Suleman Otho, Chief Chest Specialist, Sindh Services Hospital, Afia Salam, Environment & Climate Change Journalist and Rehman Khanzada, Community Health Worker, Indus Hospital & Health Network. Also in attendance were Dr. Saima Saeed, Director of the IHHN Lung Health Program, who moderated the event, IHHN CEO Dr. Abdul Bari Khan and Dr. Zafar Zaidi, Dean of Indus University of Health Sciences and Senior Executive Director, IHHN.
According to a Global Youth Tobacco Survey, about 1,200 children in Pakistan between the age of 6 – 15 years start smoking every day. Not only are cigarettes cheap and easily accessible in Pakistan, but with the advent of novel products such as e-cigarettes, tobacco in various forms has become even more accessible and desirable for young people. In fact, recent data shows that while global smoking rates among adults have fallen, the rate of young smokers continues to rise.
“There is a clear, persistent use of tobacco products in Pakistan due to a lack of understanding of the extent of tobacco hazards to our health and environment,” said Dr. Zafar Zaidi, Director of Indus University. “We need to abolish misconceptions about tobacco products to curb and break the cycle of tobacco use and providing easily comprehendible data and facts to our youth is necessary.”
Not only do our communities face the ever growing health challenges created by persistent tobacco use, but the environments in which we live are worsening each day, exasperating the effects of tobacco use.
“This year, Pakistan has faced record-breaking heatwaves as the global temperature is rising and its impacts are faced by the most vulnerable people of our society. Tobacco has negatively impacted our healthcare system, our environment and our economy,” said Dr. Abdul Bari Khan, Chief Executive Officer of Indus Hospital & Health Network (IHHN). “Pakistan’s youth is a particularly targeted group when it comes to the use of tobacco, which is why their involvement in raising awareness is crucial.”
VAT was launched to create a dialogue about the need for meaningful change to improve tobacco control measures in Pakistan. The program has engaged over 400 students and empowering them with knowledge and skills to take control of their health and future, becoming advocates for their communities. As part of an effort to bring about a tobacco-free Pakistan, VAT also launched a petition for a 30% increase on tobacco taxes, which has garnered over 2000 signatures thus far.
“Voices Against Tobacco is an Indus Hospital & Health Network’s initiative devised to facilitate better and corrective measures to tobacco control in Pakistan,” said Dr. Saima Saeed, Pulmonologist and Director of the IHHN Lung Health Program. “The goals and objective of VAT are simple – to provide a common platform for anti-tobacco advocates to raise awareness and support initiatives against tobacco use.”