Islamabad - The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has been declared as a smoke-free facility.

Speaking at a smoking trends related seminar, Chairman HEC Dr Mukhtar Ahmed declared Higher Education Commission as a smoke-free facility. He said that this is the first step towards encouragement of smoke-free universities and higher education sector and “those found smoking inside HEC premises will be fined and a task force will be established to implement this initiative.”

Embarking upon a new journey to create awareness about social issues, particularly public health, the HEC has signed a memorandum of understanding with Capital Administration and Development Division (CA&DD) to launch a campaign for a tobacco-free higher education sector in Pakistan.

The MoU was signed after a seminar entitled “Drugs and Tobacco Use: Trend, Impact and Control” jointly organised by HEC and CA&DD at Commission Secretariat on Wednesday.

Dr G Raza Bhatti, Executive Director HEC, emphasised upon the role of teachers in controlling use of tobacco and drugs. He underlined the hazards of passive smoking and said that it is imperative to increase awareness regarding hazards of smoking.

Minhaj-us-Siraj, Project Manager Tobacco-Smoke Free Islamabad, a project of CA&DD, narrated the history of tobacco use and revealed its hazards to human health and damages to environment in addition to an overview of the concept of a “smoke-free city.” He said that smoking causes blindness, peripheral vascular disease, gangrene and lung diseases in addition to various kinds of cancers.

“For every cigarette you smoke, you lose seven minutes of your life to illness caused by tobacco,” he said, adding that the chemical compounds in a cigarette smoke has killing impacts, while an estimated number of chemical compounds in a cigarette smoke is 7,357. He also revealed the harms of passive smoking and said that there is no safe margin from second-hand tobacco smoke.

He also highlighted the hazards of tobacco items including naswar, gutka, hookah, beeri, cigar and sheesha. He said that it regrettable that 55 per cent of households have at least one individual smoker. He also disclosed facts about tobacco industry and how it impacts environment, humanity and economy.