ISLAMABAD - Highlighting the alarming number of deaths due to use of tobacco every year, health experts demanded the government levy more taxes on tobacco and its products in the upcoming budget 2014-15.

They were addressing a public awareness seminar organised by Shifa International Hospital (SIH) on the eve of World No Tobacco Day on Friday. The World No Tobacco Day is marked every year on May 31 (today) to underline the health risks associated with the use of tobacco and advocate for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. The theme of this year's campaign is "raise taxes on tobacco, lower death and disease".

A large number of people including consultants, doctors, civil society representatives, medical students and citizens of twin cities attended the seminar. Executive Director Health Services Academy, Dr Asad Hafeez, was the chief guest of the seminar.

Mahmood Mirza, director strategic planning SIH, thanked the audience, chief guest and the media for their support to create awareness about the harms, negative effects and threats tobacco use can pose to human body.

Dr Asad Hafeez said the government will implement comprehensive ban on tobacco advertisement from May 31 (today). He said there was a dire need to impose more taxes on tobacco as around 1,000 children under the age of 10 years start using tobacco every day.

Consultant Pulmonologist SIH, Dr Sohail Naseem, said as many as 5,000 people in the country are admitted in the hospitals everyday owing to tobacco related diseases. Over 100,000 die of smoking related diseases every year. Tobacco kills nearly six million people each year, of which more than 6,00,000 are non-smokers dying of breathing secondhand smoke or passive smoking. "Unless we act now, the epidemic will kill more than 8 million people every year by the year 2030."

Dr Sohail said smoking will kill one billion persons by the end of this century. He said half of the Pakistani men are professional smokers and about 55 per cent families in Pakistan have at least one person who smokes. He said sheesha was equally dangerous. "Major part of household income is being spent on smoking rather on health and education," he said. Pakistan is losing almost Rs 562 million daily in cigarette smoking. Eighty per cent of cigarettes are consumed in developing countries including Pakistan.

He informed that smoking causes an estimated 90 per cent of all lung cancer deaths in men and 80 per cent in women. Smoking causes an estimated 90 per cent of all deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease.

Later, Shifa announced launching a support group for citizens who want to quit smoking and seek support after getting rid of this deadly habit. The hospital also announced to arrange hiking on Islamabad's trail 3 to raise awareness on the harms of tobacco on June 1.

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