SHEIKHUPURA-Around 1,000 to 1,200 Pakistani children, between six and twelve years of age, start smoking every day, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) results of 2015.

This was stated by Khurram Shahzad, media coordinator of Society for Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC), during a talk with this scribe here the other day.

He said that the population of Pakistan consisted of 60 percent youths below the age of 25, adding that the alarming statistics of young people, getting addicted to tobacco, needed strict tax reforms, and a check on the sale of cigarettes particularly to underage children.

He said that Multan was a densely populated district with 4.7 million population including 2,437,412 men, 2,307,504 women, and 193 transgender people.

The major proportion of the population comprised teenagers, mostly below 18 years of age, who were affected directly or indirectly by smoking.

"The worrisome aspect is the healthcare burden which is Rs143 billion as compared to revenue generation which stands at Rs83 billion, leading to a loss to federal exchequer.

SPARC Field Officer Naeem Ahmed told The Nation that as per the data collected from Cancer Department, Nishtar Hospital Multan, a total of 4,360 cancer patients had visited Nishtar Hospital since January to November 2018.

They included 1,745 men, 2,614 women, and 443 children including 280 boys and 163 girls. He added that the silent feature of smoking had been associated with upper and lower respiratory tract infections and bronchial asthma in children leading to serious lungs diseases i.e. Tuberculosis.

"The health risks are widely known, but still the use of Tobacco is common throughout the world, especially in the developing countries like Pakistan," he said, adding that the tobacco products were easily accessible to minors including school going children and dropouts in Multan district.

"The SPARC has suggested the Multan administration to curb the excessive use of tobacco among public and children," he said, adding that Health Department, oncologists, academics, environmentalists, local government, and public administration should launch collective efforts for strict implementation of laws regarding prohibition of sale of cigarettes to underage children.

He also sought serious steps for the implementation of Punjab Tobacco Vend Act 1958 to avert the sale of cigarette at public points.