Smoking should be completely banned in Pakistan through legislation enacted by the National Assembly since the resources spent on the treatment of diseases caused by tobacco consumption were a lot higher than the taxes and revenue generated by the government from companies selling it.
This demand was put forward by senior cardiologist and the executive director of the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD), Dr Nadeem Qamar, while addressing an International Conference on Cardiology held in connection with the World Heart Day on Wednesday.
The conference was organized by Triple-E, a preventive awareness entrepreneur in collaboration with NICVD and the Sindh health department and senior cardiologists, physicians and health experts spoke on the occasion.
Sindh health minister Jam Mehtab Hussain Dahar and secretary Saeed Ahmed Mangnejo were also present on the occasion.
Dr Nadeem Qamar disclosed that more than 17 percent of Pakistan’s population suffered from hypertension and diabetes while a large majority of the country indulged in the habit of smoking. He said these factors are major risk factors for causing heart diseases and the mortality rate is high in the country due to heart-related illnesses.
“Everybody knows that smoking is injurious to health but it is also detrimental for national economy,” he said. “We spend a lot more money on treatment of diseases caused by smoking as compared to what the government earns from taxing cigarette companies. Smoking is also seriously affecting smokers’ economic conditions so cigarettes should be declared a prohibited item in Pakistan.”
He said now the NICVD was focusing more on prevention from heart diseases, hence for this purpose it had also established a preventive cardiology department that had kicked off awareness campaigns against risk factors and lifestyles leading to serious coronary ailments.
Dr Qamar praised the Sindh government for enhancing NICVD’s grant from Rs400 million to Rs1.1 billion, adding that Rs1.8 billion more were being provided for the establishment of paediatric surgery unit at the cardiovascular institute.
In addition to government support, he said, civil society and philanthropists were also coming forward and helping in the acquisition of costly equipment and other material resources for the treatment of poor who could not afford costly treatment of heart diseases at private hospitals.
On the occasion, the NICVD executive director announced the institute would double the bypass procedures from 1,300 to 2,500 per year very soon.
Speaking on the occasion, Sindh health minister Jam Mehtab Hussain Dahar said he had failed to achieve targets he had set himself for improving health sector of the province but claimed that things had improved by at least 30 percent since he had assumed office. He said nowadays heart diseases had become the diseases of the poor and it was evident from the larger number of people from the lower-income groups visiting the NICVD.
He said the lower-income groups had begun living a sedentary life while lack of financial resources and economic stress was resulting in increased heart ailments among its people.
“There is a need to create awareness among poor people who live in areas of low-socioeconomic backgrounds instead of holding seminars and conferences at four and five star hotels. We should now reach to the areas of masses and make them aware of the habits leading to heart diseases,” said the health minister.
Talking about the steps taken by the provincial health department for improving health facilities in Sindh, he claimed that soon patients would not have to come to Karachi from Hyderabad for treatment of heart ailments since all types of health care facilities will be provided in their city.
Similarly, he said, modern treatment facilities were also being provided at the Gambat Institute of Health Sciences, including liver transplant surgeries which would commence shortly.
Earlier, senior cardiologists of the country urged people to adopt healthy lifestyles, work to lower their cholesterol levels, hypertension and diabetes by exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. They said heart ailments killed more people in the world than cancer and other communicable and non-communicable diseases.
Dr Syed Ishtiaq Rasool, Dr Zahid Jamal and Dr Nadeem Rizvi called for establishing at least five to eight more institutes of heart diseases in a city like Karachi where the population was spinning out of control but health facilities could not cater to the people’s needs. They feared that coronary heart diseases would rise in Pakistan and its heavily populated cities such as Karachi due to the increase in population and stated awareness to be the only solution for preventing such diseases.
They said only eating healthy and balanced diets, regular exercise and stress-free lifestyles could not only keep heart diseases away but also lessen their economic burdens.
Ebad presents awards
Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan presented excellence in service awards to senior cardiologists, physicians and surgeons for their services to ailing humanity and for serving the people of Sindh, especially Karachi, selflessly.
The awards were presented at a ceremony held at the Sindh Governor’s House in connection with World Heart Day.
The council generals of Malaysia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates in Karachi, Sindh Health Secretary Saeed Ahmed Mangnejo, Executive Director National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) Dr Nadeem Qamar, Arshad Siddiqi and others were also present on the occasion.
Doctors who were presented with awards by the governor included Dr Hameedullah Malik, Dr Zahid Jamal, Dr Roohi Illyas, Dr Anees Memon and Dr Tariq Shafi, while Dr Saeed Ahmed, Dr Nadeem Rizvi and Dr Nadeem Qamar were presented with shields. The governor lauded the services of cardiologists, physicians and surgeons on receiving excellence in service awards and urged them to continue creating awareness among the people besides treating heart patients as prevention was the key to prevent the burden of heart ailments.