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Unrestricted Smoking in Pakistan

I was travelling from Sialkot to Chiniot, few days ago in the only coaster which commute between two cities. The journey normally takes 4 hours. After two hours, a person lighted a cigarette in the vehicle. Nobody protested. Many others followed and for rest of the trip I was a second hand smoker.

A couple of days ago I went over news on the internet that the Indian government has collected a fine of almost 5.8 million rupees on smoking in public places in last six years since the ban was imposed.

In Pakistan smoking is prohibited in public places under the Prohibition of Smoking in Enclosed places and Protection of Non Smokers Health Ordinance, 2002. Further sub sections were included subsequently to elucidate different gray areas of the law.

‘Pakistan prohibits smoking any tobacco product in all places of public work or use, including health, government, sports, and educational facilities. Smoking is also prohibited in all restaurants, hotel lounges, and all public transport. Provinces may enact more stringent laws’.

The authorities can fine up to Rs. 1,000 for smoking at a public place, transport vehicles and failure of the owner or manager of a premise to display a no smoking sign at a prominent place. The fine can increase up to Rs. 100,000 on further violations. The District Committees for Tobacco Control were established in all districts of the province under the District Coordination Officer but no person has been penalized till date.

The smoking trend is rising in Pakistan, with numbers of juvenile adults joining the class. About 1,600 children take up smoking every day in the country. There are more than 40% male and 9% female smokers in Pakistan. At least 100000 people die every year due to tobacco related diseases.

The anti-smoking laws should be implemented accordingly to discourage smoking at public places. Passive smoking increases the risk of lungs cancer, asthma, heart diseases and various other smoking related diseases. Public campaigns should be instigated and supervised effectively to discourage people from smoking at public places and penalizing the offenders.

A friend returned from Canada after 10 years. We decided to spend time in Lahore like the old times. He was stunned to see the difference and the swiftness at which Lahore has transformed with all its new flyovers, underpasses and metro buses. As part of plan, we went to dine in a posh restaurant at MM Alam Road. We ordered food. While waiting for the dinner, he noticed a person smoking cigarette inside the restaurant. In an astounding and inquisitive tone he asked me: how he can smoke in restaurant? ‘Not an issue you can too’, I flatly replied. With a blistering joy at his face he took his Marlboro out of his pocket and while exhaling his first puff, said: ‘In Canada you cannot think of smoking in restaurant like this’.

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