• June 15, 2024

Illicit Market Smaller Than Suggested: WHO

 Illicit Market Smaller Than Suggested: WHO
Photo: Taco Tuinstra

Pakistan’s illicit cigarette market is smaller than the tobacco industry claims, according to the World Health Organization.

Nonetheless, the illegal sales still account for 23.1 percent of the country’s total cigarette trade, a survey by the global health body found.

Of the illicit cigarettes, 47 percent is smuggled, 45 percent is nontax paid and 8 percent is counterfeit.

According to the study, which is based on Pakistan Bureau of Statistics data, tax evasion on domestically produced cigarettes in 2015-2016 amounted to PKR53.8 billion ($193.16 million). Seventy percent of that share was evaded by the legitimate sector, the WHO study said.

Anti-tobacco activists have been pressing the government to raise tobacco taxes to 70 percent of the retail price, in line with WHO guidelines

“With over 60 percent of the population comprising youth, it’s crucial for the government to protect them from the ills of tobacco use,” said Malik Imran Ahmed, country head of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), told Business Recorder.

He said the move would generate PKR200 billion in additional revenue by year-end, and help recoup healthcare costs associated with smoking-related illnesses.