KARACHI – “Tobacco use is one of the world’s most leading preventable causes of death; yet every year nearly six million people die of tobacco-induced diseases. Alarmingly over 600,000 of these individuals are victims of passive smoking, inhaling the smoke exhaled by a smoker. All tobacco users, including cigarette and shisha smokers, are far more likely to suffer from heart attacks, strokes, COPD and lung cancer as compared to individuals who don’t smoke,” said Dr Hashir Majid, Assistant Professor, Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Aga Khan University (AKU) while describing the harmful effects of tobacco. He was speaking at a seminar held at AKU to mark World No Tobacco Day on May 31, 2012. Adding that there is no such thing as a ‘safe’ or ‘acceptable’ level of tobacco use, Dr Majid described the other side effects of smoking. Smokers are prone to developing distressing complications such as impotence and infertility; pregnancy related problems; kidney disorders; increased vulnerability to infection and many forms of cancer. During the seminar Professor Javaid Khan, Section Head, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, AKU stated that the state has an important role to play in combating the scourge of tobacco by strictly enforcing existing anti-smoking laws. Although Pakistan became a signatory to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in June 2004, along with 168 states committed to control tobacco use, the country lags behind the rest of the world in its tobacco control efforts. For this year’s World No Tobacco Day, WHO has chosen the theme ‘Tobacco industry interference’ said Dr. Ali Zubairi, Associate Professor, Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, highlighting the strategies adopted by the tobacco industry to promote tobacco products in spite of criticism from health care professionals. He lamented that despite restraints, tobacco advertising continues to play a major role in snaring young people and encouraging them to smoke, especially in developing countries. Some corporations rely on tactics such as political lobbying or financing scientific and business research to manage public perception or counter findings which link smoking with terminal diseases. Discrediting the myth that the tobacco industry is beneficial for the economy Dr Javaid Khan pointed out that, “the burden of the direct and indirect consequences of smoking, such as health care costs, loss of workdays and productive years due to early deaths far outstrip the revenue generated from taxes and employment created by the smoking industry.”While talking to the audience on tips to quit smoking, Dr Muhammad Irfan, Assistant Professor, Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University stated that although most people are aware of health issues involved in smoking, they are unable to quit because they are addicted to nicotine. He reassured the audience that, “addictions can be overcome with help from cessation experts as well as through various medications available to assist anyone determined to quit. However, willpower and personal determination to break free from the addiction play the most crucial role.” The seminar was also graced by the presence of the chief guest, Dr Abdul Wahab, Vice Chancellor, Mohammad Ali Jinnah University, who talked about the role of universities in eradicating tobacco use and promoting a healthy society. He urged all VCs to implement smoking ban within the university premises.