LAHORE: Speakers at a webinar have called for bringing the overall supply chain of tobacco under effective tobacco control and enforcement including a mechanism for quick verification of data on cigarette production and sales, to reduce the public health risks from the illicit trade in cigarettes in Pakistan apart from checking loss to the national kitty.

The webinar titled “Illicit, Illegal or Smuggled Tobacco Products in Pakistan – Deconstructing Tobacco Industry’s Narratives” was organized by Sustainable Policy Institute (SDPI).

Participating in the discussion, Executive Director, The Initiative Dr Amina Khan said that cigarettes are declared legal or illegal as per criteria including the price of the cigarette, the text and graphic warning printed on the cigarette box, the name of the cigarette manufacturer and the country of origin. “The absence of any one of these criteria does not always mean the tax has not been paid,” she reasoned.

She added that the track and trace system on cigarettes in Pakistan would help reduce the economic and social losses of the illicit trade in cigarettes.

Additional Collector Customs FBR, Dr Karam Elahi said that despite the FBR’s measures, illegal cigarettes are coming from Afghanistan and Iran’s porous border and from Kashmir. “The problem with our economy is that, according to different studies, 30 to 40%, some would say even more is informal, it’s undocumented, and, you know, the cigarette or tobacco sector is no exception in that overall context,” he said, adding that “one cannot deny the fact that we have to control the illicit trade in cigarettes.” He said that illicit trade in cigarettes is a national issue which all stakeholders should work together instead of blaming.

Source: Business Recorder – 09 Oct, 2021