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The State Minister for National Health Services Regulation & Coordination, Saira Afzal Tarar on Thursday launched Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) fact sheet and executive summary, first of its kind in Pakistan.

With this Pakistan joined the club of 27 countries in the world who have conducted this survey.

Addressing a ceremony in connection with World no Tobacco Day 2015, the Minister said currently 23.9 million adults (19%) use tobacco and out of these 15.6 million (12%) smoke tobacco and 9.6 million (8%) use smokeless tobacco products. Highlighting its importance, she said that GATS allows for cross-country comparisons and is a global standard to systematically monitor adult tobacco use and track key tobacco control measures. She also praised the efforts of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for financial support to carry out this task.

The Minister of State told that, this survey was conducted by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), in coordination with Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSRC) and World Health Organization (WHO). She acknowledged the support of the Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean of the World Health Organization (WHO), the WHO Country Office in Pakistan, CDC, the CDC Foundation, and RTI International

She revealed the statistics that 29% smokers in Pakistan starts smoking before the age of 17 years and 3 in 10 persons who currently smoke, thought about quitting because of a Pictorial health-warning label. Knowing the significance and effectiveness of Pictorial Health Warning, Government recently had enhanced the size of new Pictorial Health Warning on Cigarette Packs from 40 to 85%, for deterring youth for taking up smoking.

Saira also disclosed that 7 in 10 adults (16.8 million) who worked indoors were exposed to tobacco smoke at the workplace and 9 in 10 adults (21.2 million adults) who visited restaurants were exposed to tobacco smoke. Speaking about monetary burden of smoking, she quantified that average amount spent by smokers on 20 manufactured cigarettes was Rs.40.9, while same amount of rupees can buy approximately 1 kilogram (2.2. pounds) of potatoes or five eggs or one big bread.

The Minister said, Tobacco use kills nearly six million people every year, including the 600, 000 who were killed by the effects of exposure to second-hand smoke. Tobacco use is one of the main risk factors for a number of chronic diseases, including cancer, lung diseases and cardiovascular diseases. Negative health impacts are associated with the use of all types of tobacco, including cigarettes, water pipes and smokeless tobacco. Non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke also experience the adverse health effects of tobacco use.

Referring the theme of World No Tobacco Day 2015, she said that illicit products are untaxed and unregulated, with no health warnings, packaging or labeling requirements, which makes them cheaper, more readily available and accessible, especially to young and poor people.

She further stated that NAB has contacted Ministry of NHSRC for support in their awareness campaign, “Say no to corruption”. They have submitted proposal that this logo shall be printed on Cigarette pack. The Minister appreciated the proposal from Ms. Aliya Rashid Director General Awareness and Prevention Division NAB, and assured that the proposal will be given serious consideration in future plans.

Saira Afzal Tarar reiterated Federal Government stance for prevention and promotion of public health, and announced that Federal Government is going to constitute and notify, National Coordination Committee. This committee will comprised of all stakeholders, provincial governments to monitor and implement enforcement of tobacco control laws in letter and spirit and to control the menace of illicit trade of tobacco products in the country. (PID)


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