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January 16, 2021

‘Cigarette sales surge by 19.2pc in Punjab’

National

January 16, 2021

Islamabad: The production of cigarettes, their sale and stocks have increased by 9.4 per cent and 19.2 per cent respectively in Punjab during the peak of coronavirus pandemic in the province, reveals official data.

The planning and development of Punjab has revealed in a monthly survey that total employment in three major cigarette industries in the province grew by 1.2 per cent in September 2020 as compared to the previous month.

The government statistics out rightly reject the stance of foreign cigarette companies that there is a decline in their production because of the increase in the illicit trade. How is it possible that the production of cigarettes is increasing with an increase in the illicit trade, question the anti-tobacco activists.

Referring to the Punjab government data, they said that this anomaly should be an eye opener for the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) that how these foreign companies manipulate with the data for pressurizing the regulator to form policies in their favor and earn revenues at the cost of the national exchequer.

The Punjab government data also clearly depicts that the present taxation policy and the enforcement measures are not up to the mark for controlling the market from such kind of malpractices used by the tobacco sector to achieve big profits.

The anti-smoking activists urged the government to increase taxes on the tobacco products to a level that the product would remain no more in the purchasing power of general public and youth.

As per latest data from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics up till the month of November 2020, the cigarette production had reached 21.4 billion sticks in the Jul-Nov 2020 period, up by almost a fifth, or 3.5 billion more sticks, over comparative period last year.

The yearly growth in the Jul-Nov period was especially strong in the months of July (up 76% YoY) and August (up 22% YoY), the immediate months after a tobacco-neutral budget. In November 2020, there was 18 percent yearly growth.

A recent research study released by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) has also revealed that the cigarettes consumption figures stand at a whopping 86.6 billion per year, while the official figures by the industry remain restricted to 55 billion only to evade the tax. In Pakistan, there are 22 million tobacco users, wherein 60 percent are adolescents. Resultantly, 1.5 million cases of oral cancer are reported by Pakistan Medical Association on a yearly basis.

The World Health Organization has termed tobacco as an epidemic which has very severe short- and long-term repercussions on public health.