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Spike in Tobacco Scenes on TV Shows Linked to Rising Youth Smoking Rates

MULTAN: Among youth aged 15 to 24, there has been a 110% increase in scenes featuring tobacco in popular shows, often glamorizing smoking.

The prevalence of smoking among young people is either sustained or increasing in some countries, according to Cancer Society President Dr. Ahmed Ijaz Masood.

In a statement ahead of World Tobacco Day on May 31, he highlighted that an estimated 38 million boys and girls aged 13 to 15 globally use tobacco products. “Nicotine is especially harmful to developing brains,” he noted.

Tobacco products, including branded promotional materials, hookahs, and e-cigarettes, which are highly popular among the youth, pose greater risks than cigarettes, he explained. These tactics by the tobacco industry lure young people into lifelong addiction. “If you don’t quit smoking, your cancer will,” Dr. Ahmed warned.

He described smoking as a major curse in society, involving cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookahs, beedis, betel leaves, areca nuts, gutka, and snuff, which are among the deadliest substances leading to death.

There is an urgent need to raise awareness and educate people about the harmful effects of smoking, Dr. Masood emphasized, noting that World Tobacco Day aims to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and the resulting deaths and diseases. Smoking causes over 8 million deaths annually worldwide, he pointed out.

The goal of World No Tobacco Day is to curb the widespread use of tobacco and promote permanent cessation of smoking, he said. He urged taking a stand towards a healthier future, mentioning that the theme for World No Tobacco Day 2024 is: “Protecting Children from Tobacco Industry Interference.”

Smoking damages nearly every organ in the human body and negatively impacts overall health, Dr. Masood noted. “Tobacco kills nearly 50 percent of its users.”

“Smoking causes many life-threatening diseases, with cancer being the most prominent. Tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, most of which are carcinogenic,” he said, adding that smoking is the leading cause of lung, mouth, and throat cancers. In our region, 30 to 40 percent of cancers are due to smoking, he noted.

He explained that using tobacco in any form can lead to various lethal cancers, including lung, oral, esophageal, stomach, colon, liver, pancreatic, breast, kidney, prostate, and bladder cancers. Smoking also causes heart attacks, asthma, cardiovascular diseases, and other psychological disorders.

Pakistan is among the 15 countries with the highest burden of tobacco-related deaths and diseases, with around 32% of youth and 8% of women smoking. In Pakistan, tobacco use results in 166,000 deaths annually, with 31,000 of these due to secondhand smoke.

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