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Tobacco industry’s ad on illicit cigarette trade a ‘smokescreen’

Islamabad

May 14, 2020

Islamabad : The Coalition for Tobacco Control (CTC) Tuesday expressed shock at the publication of an advertisement backed by the tobacco industry, calling for stopping illegal trade of cigarettes in Pakistan.

The advertisement, published on the front page of a leading English daily, claims that Pakistan annually loses Rs. 44 billion to illicit cigarette trade. It further claims that this money can be used to educate 2.5 million students, provide electricity to 250,000 homes, and to feed 9 million people with three meals a day for a month. The ad asks for signing a pledge for stopping illicit cigarette trade at www.stopillegaltrade.pk, which is financially backed by Philip Morris Pakistan.

“This ad can be described as the best example of smokescreen,” commented Khurram Hashmi, the National Coordinator of CTC-Pakistan. He added that as Pakistan, like the rest of the world, is facing economic meltdown because of Coronavirus, the tobacco industry is trying to present itself as a helping hand.

Khurram said, according to the World Bank’s country overview of tobacco use in Pakistan, the tobacco industry overestimates illicit trade as one of the ploys to plan decline in the government’s revenues. “The report says a public impression is created that illicit cigarette trade in Pakistan is very massive and is growing with every excise increase.”

The other two ploys, Khurram said, are forestalling (increases in production or stock of the product in anticipation of a tax increase), and price over-shifting (the increase of cigarette prices by more than the tax increase and the inflation rate would require).

“We need to be very careful and, at the same time, vigilant to the ploys that the industry is adopting in these tough times, especially when the budget is just around the corner,” CTC chief added. “This is nothing but a futile attempt to avoid tax raise on their life-threatening product, cigarettes.”

CTC-Pakistan works to strengthen the development and implementation of policies based on provisions of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) through advocacy campaigns and acting as a technical resource for the Ministry of National Health Services. It has 267 civil society organizations working on tobacco control issues in Pakistan.