ISLAMABAD: A research study carried out recently has discovered that maximum illicit cigarette sales does not amount to more than nine per cent in Pakistan recommending removal of tax relief and increase in taxation on tobacco industry to save the nation from tobacco hazards.
“Study to Assess the Volume of Illicit Cigarette Brands in Pakistan” was launched on Wednesday by the Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) and the Human Development Foundation (HDF).
It shows that tobacco industry claims of more than 40% spurious cigarette sales were unfounded. This means the third tier of taxation introduced by the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) to give tax relief to tobacco companies was not justified and had not only caused government exchequer loss of billions of rupees but also considerably increased tobacco consumption in the country putting more health burden to the poor nation.
The study carried out recently under the technical guidance of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Knowledge Hub, Economics of Tobacco Control Project assessed the volume of sale of illicit cigarette brands in ten cities and their adjoining rural areas across Pakistan.
The study was conducted in the backdrop of claims by the tobacco industry that the market share of illicit brands in Pakistan has risen exponentially due to high tobacco taxes and now stands at 40 per cent of the total cigarette market. Data collection from Karachi, Lahore, Sukkur, Multan, Hyderabad, Peshawar, Quetta, Rawalpindi, Muzaffarabad and Nowshera, however, did not support such claims by the tobacco industry.
Tobacco kills more than 153,000 Pakistanis annually and takes an enormous toll on the health and physical fitness of the nation. Pakistan has one of the largest tobacco consuming populations in the world with some 20.1 million people using tobacco in the country. Tobacco related deaths are 11% of all deaths in the country. Cigarettes are the most used form of tobacco with 85% people using tobacco by smoking. There is a 10.7% rate of tobacco use among the youth.
It is pertinent to mention that the FBR introduced a third tier of tobacco tax explicitly because of false claims by tobacco Industry of high level illicit cigarette market. Study findings made it clear that there is no justification for such a tax break for the tobacco industry. “All tax relief should be removed and tax should be increased to save our nation from tobacco hazard which the government of Pakistan has made commitment under Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)”, the research study recommends.
This research report underscores the need to stop tax relief for the tobacco industry. This will go a long way in discouraging the youth from smoking and other tobacco use in order to protect their health, improve national revenues and reduce related health care expenses.
Dr Sania Nishtar, Co-Chair of the High-Level Commission on Non-Communicable Diseases at World Health Organization (WHO), graced the occasion as Chief Guest. Among other prominent speakers were Human Development Foundation (HDF),CEO Azhar Saleem
SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Q Suleri, PANAH,Senior Vice President, Dr Wajid Ali Verso Consulting Director Jamal Janjua and PANAH President Maj Gen (retd) Masudur Rehman Kiani.
Chief guest Sania Nishtar while addressing the seminar said that smoking is a silent and fatal killer to human life. It is the main causesof cancer, heart attack and lung diseases. We appreciate the services rendered by the private sector to control the use of tobacco. She said that week legislations regarding the use of tobacco are not serving the national interests.
She said that democratic governments near election do focus their lens on the short term projects for future programme to win elections. She urged the government to promulgate more proposed legislation and their implementation to control the sale of illicit cigarette.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2018.