Jul 29, 2009
The causal linkage between smoking cigarettes and cancer was established over fifty years ago. Smoking-related diseases cause millions of deaths worldwide annually and governments everywhere are gradually bringing in legislation to restrict the sale of tobacco products to minors and to limit the places where smoking is permitted. Legislation aimed at protecting the population from its own follies has fared poorly in recent years – remember the motorcycle helmet law? – and now we have the government once again trying to do something sensible by prohibiting smoking or the use of tobacco in any form in any place of public work or use. All very laudable and the usual suspects have clapped and cheered and congratulated the government saying this will help protect the health of non-smokers and better enforce existing laws – except that it won't. As with so much other well-intentioned legislation in Pakistan it will founder on the reefs of non-enforcement and apathy. Not only is there little inclination towards compliance, there is equally little by way of enforcement. Are there armies of public health inspectors about to fan out across the land to make sure that the new ban is being observed? We think not. Will the police be clapping in irons those found in breach of the legislation? We doubt it. There is nothing wrong, nothing at all, with this piece of good public health legislation. However, laws like this which are difficult – indeed virtually impossible – to enforce will only find compliance if they are backed up by long-term health education programmes. A wise government would invest in such – but enacting toothless laws changes nothing unless minds are turned in the direction of acceptance.