Peshawar University students oppose ban on smoking

PESHAWAR, May 31(Daily Times): Most students oppose the decision taken recently by the Peshawar University administration to ban smoking on campus, a survey revealed.

Students, requesting anonymity, said that the university administration should solve other problems being faced by students, including providing students with more facilities at hostels and reducing hostel charges.

Imran and Abbas, BSc students at the Computer Science Department, said they were dissatisfied with the decision, adding, "If the university management bans the sale of cigarettes on campus, we will buy them from shops in the University Town (an area located near the university). We usually buy four to six cigarettes from shops on campus, but in case of a ban we may begin purchasing whole packets. We will go out to buy cigarettes even at midnight."

Sumaira and Nadia from the Environmental Science Department said the administration should also ban the sale of cigarettes in the University Town area. "It is a good decision, as cigarettes are injurious to health." Journalism and Mass Communication Department student Saqib said nobody could stop him from smoking, adding, "I smoke proudly and it is my habit."

Another student said, " This is not the way to ban smoking," adding that the administration should first launch an awareness campaign to inform people about the harmful affects of smoking. Some students appreciated the proposed ban on smoking and said most students would quit smoking if the campus shops stopped selling cigarettes.

"I appreciate the administration's decision, but we should think about the factors responsible for the rising trend of smoking. The government should ban tobacco companies and their colourful advertisements which depict smokers as heroes, thus promoting smoking," said an English Department lecturer requested anonymity.

A shopkeeper on campus said, "The university administration's decision will adversely affect our business, as we sell an average of 5,000 cigarettes a month." In the beginning of 2007, non-government organisation Abaseen Foundation, in collaboration with the Pulmonology Department of the Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) and Peshawar University's Psychology Department, conducted a survey regarding smoking on campus.

Psychology Department lecturer Dr Erum Irshad, who was a co-investigator in the survey, said, "The survey found that 25 percent of the university students were smokers and that the ratio of female smokers was comparatively low." She said one-fourth of the students were smokers. "Of the 1,198 students aged 21 964 were boys and 166 girls found that 236 boys and one girl student were smokers. According to the survey, 5,000 students out of the total 20,000 on campus, were smokers.

In a similar survey conducted by these organisations in 2003 at the Peshawar University, 34 percent students were found to be smokers. In the 2003 survey, the ratio of girl students was 5 percent which dropped to 0.6 percent in the 2007 survey. According to Erum Irshad, most students told the survey team that they had started smoking in their late teens, which the experts say is a crucial period in students' lives, usually studying at colleges.

"Parents can prevent their children from adopting bad habits during their teens," stated KTH Associate Prof Dr Mukhtiar Zaman Afridi, who was the 2007 survey's principal investigator.

However, it remains to be seen whether or not the university administration succeeds in banning smoking on campus, as the government had earlier also announced a similar ban on smoking in public transport and places, but people have been defying the ban.

Journalism and Mass Communication Department lecturer Gul Wahab said, "The university administration's announcement is a campaign that will definitely have positive results."

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