The number of young female smokers in the country has jumped to 16 per cent from six per cent in recent years. This was stated by Dr. Javaid A. Khan, a senior chest physician and researcher in his presentation during the 12th Biennial Convention of Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) held in Hyderabad over the weekend.

“Tobacco is responsible for 100,000 deaths annually in Pakistan. The number of female smokers in their teens and twenties has increased rapidly. These women smokers are also going to face the same health issues due to tobacco usage as those being suffered by male smokers. Pakistanis in general consume Rs. 450 billion worth of tobacco annually and this trend needs to be curbed,” said Dr. Khan, a consultant chest physician, currently associated with the Aga Khan University Hospital.

In his key-note address on ‘Tobacco Control – Key to Disease Prevention’, he said, “The usage of tobacco in the form of Shisha or Hookah is gaining popularity among youngsters in urban areas of the country. However, it must be noted that smoking Shisha for an hour is equal to smoking 100 cigarettes in the same time. Since Shisha also contains nicotine and tar, it can lead to lung cancer and heart attacks. Its unfortunate that many people consider Shisha a non-hazardous leisurely activity.”

The chest physician referred to a WHO study that showed that parents who had 15 per cent acceptability for smoking cigarettes reflected over 70 per cent acceptability for Shisha smoking.

Dr. Khan deplored that in countries like Pakistan a single cigarette pack was cheaper than a loaf of bread and consequently smoking Marshal was getting popular among youth due to its easy availability and affordability.

“Appropriate and efficient measures to prohibit smoking and tobacco chewing will not only prevent deaths but also curtail heavy expenditure incurred on diseases caused due to consumption of tobacco and its bi-products,” he said.

He further added that Tarceva, a medicine used for the treatment of lung cancer, costs patients more that US$ 4000 per month, and is unaffordable for majority of Pakistani.

Meanwhile, a PIMA press release issued here on Monday stated that the two day 12th Biennial Convention of the Association concluded on Sunday evening at Hyderabad. The event was attended by renowned consultants, including Pediatricians, Cardiologists, Nutritionists, Oncologists, Gynecologists, Hematologists and other medical professionals. A large number of postgraduate students and pharmacists from all over Sindh also attended the moot.