‘Tobacco users can die 15 to 20 years prematurely’

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Tobacco is one of the most powerful addictive substances available in the world and tobacco users can die on average 15 to 20 years prematurely, according to a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The report further states that 5.4 million people died last year because of tobacco usage. This death toll is expected to rise to 10 million per year by the year 2025, unless preventive measures are taken.

Meanwhile, Federal Health Ministry Deputy Director Shaheen Masood maintains that the government of Pakistan needs support from all sectors of society, including religious scholars, to educate the public about the serious health hazards associated with tobacco use. Masood was addressing a seminar on Thursday at the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH). The event was organized by the AKUH in collaboration with the health ministry.

According to Dr Shehzad Ghaffar, head and neck surgeon at the AKU, gutka and pan masala are commonly consumed in Pakistan, resulting in the rise of head, neck and mouth cancers. “Pakistan currently tops the list in the incidence of oral cancer,” he said

Engineer Naveed Ahmed, a religious scholar from the Qura’an Academy in Karachi, said that good health was a blessing from God and people should take measures to not destroy it by using addictive substances such as tobacco.

“The Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have said: ‘Whosoever drinks poison, thereby killing himself, will sip this poison forever in the hell-fire.’ Cigarettes contain poisonous substances and smoking is equivalent to committing suicide. Scientific research has clearly shown that each cigarette takes away 11 minutes from one’s life,” Ahmed said.

Dr Muhammad Irfan, consultant pulmonologist at the AKU, said that many smokers are afraid of quitting because they think it is painful. “Nicotine withdrawal symptoms only last for a couple of weeks and medication is available to help with the process. With strong will power, quitting smoking is much easier now than it was before,” he said. Dr Javaid Khan, head of section of pulmonary and critical care medicine at AKU, also spoke on the occasion.

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