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WHO releases report on illicit cigarettes’ trade

By Our Correspondent
May 17, 2024
A logo is pictured outside a building of the World Health Organization (WHO). — Reuters/File
A logo is pictured outside a building of the World Health Organization (WHO). — Reuters/File

Islamabad:The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released a report debunking the myths about illicit trade of cigarettes in the market created by multinational companies.

It says “illicit trade market in Pakistan ranges from 9 to17 per cent of the total cigarette market. However, none of the studies has estimated the extent of the counterfeit issue.” The study titled ‘Study on Incidence of Illicit trade of cigarettes in Pakistan: A case study for Islamabad Capital Territory’ also stressed that the most effective way to reduce tobacco consumption is to increase the prices of tobacco products.

“As part of this study, WHO conducted a survey of cigarette retail market in Islamabad to determine the quantum of illicit cigarette packs. Of fifty union councils in Islamabad, we selected 10 union councils using a multistage sampling technique. Our numerator collected 500 empty cigarette packs from vendors, streets and garbage depots/dumps in each union council,” says the study. The world’s top health body emphasised that the prices of tobacco products in Pakistan should be increased by taxing the tobacco industry.

According to the study which is based on Pakistan Bureau of Statistics data, tax evasion on domestically produced cigarettes in 2015-16 amounted to Rs53.8 billion in which Rs38.9 billion which is above 72 percent of the total share was evaded by legitimate sector. The study found that the illicit market share is around 23% out of which 47% is smuggled and 45% is Non Tax Paid. Malik Imran Ahmed, Country Head of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, “With over 60% of the population comprising youth, it’s crucial for the government to protect them from the ills of tobacco use,” he said.