“Smoking is a global health threat not only affecting the developed, but also the underdeveloped, poverty stricken, third world countries. Although continuing awareness on this topic, in one form or the other, is producing promising results, still it is estimated that a quarter of world population is using tobacco in some form,” says Dr Faheem Butt, consultant pulmonologist at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre (SKMCH&RC).

Talking to journalists at the hospital on World No Tobacco Day observed globally every year on May 31, he said: “Globally, the death toll due to diseases caused by smoking is on the rise with an estimated five million deaths every year. Seventy percent (70%) of these deaths occur in under developed countries. Health care professionals with support from government and media can make a difference by educating the smokers to quit and motivating the non-smokers, especially youngsters, to remain non-smokers. Remember, this is a preventable or an avoidable health risk.”

Talking about the role of SKMCH&RC in creating awareness about the dangers of smoking, he informed the media that, “In Pakistan, where tobacco consumption is very high, SKMCH&RC plays its part in the society through its annual anti-tobacco awareness campaign with the title ‘Jab Cigarette Jalta Hai Tau Cancer Palta Hai’ especially among educational institutes to make youth more aware about the effects of smoking. Experienced doctors are a part of this very effective campaign through their lectures at the institutes. It is the need of the time to join hands with SKMCH&RC in its mission to save our future by making Pakistan a smoke free country reducing the ratio of cancer cases caused by smoking.”

According to SKMCH&RC statistics nearly forty percent (40%) cancers in adult males at SKMCH&RC, can be linked with the use of tobacco. It is the single most preventable cause of death, poverty and illness worldwide. Tobacco kills nearly six million people per year worldwide and will kill up to one billion people in this century. Approximately one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco. More than six hundred thousand (600,000) of those that die globally each year are non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke and nearly eighty percent (80%) of the world’s more than one billion smokers live in low and middle income countries like Pakistan, where nearly thirty three (33%) of males and six (6%) of females smoke.

Concluding, he said that, “Tobacco smoke contains more than four thousand (4000) chemicals. At least two fifty (250) of them are known to be harmful and over fifty (50) can cause cancer. A high incidence of lung cancer is associated with smoking. Tobacco can also cause cancer in other parts of the body such as the bladder, kidneys, uterus, cervix, breast, pancreas, colon, and various types of lip and oral cavity cancers. In Pakistan, tobacco is consumed not only through cigarettes, cigars, and hookah, but also in smokeless forms such as paan/betel with tobacco, chalia/supari, naswar, and gutka. Oral cancer is the second most common cancer seen in Pakistan and the use of smokeless tobacco is known to increase the risk of oral cancer. Tobacco can also lead to heart disease, increasing the chance of a heart attack or stroke, as well as causing a major lung disease, which can lead to severe breathing difficulty or breathing failure.”