Illicit cigarette sale increases to 60% in South Punjab

PIDE calls for uniformity in taxing cigarettes

ISLAMABAD, MAR 12 (DNA) — The Pakistan Tobacco Company (PTC) shared the latest market trends and informed that the sale of illicit (smuggled, tax evaded and counterfeit) cigarettes has increased to around 60 percent in South Punjab, resulting in a loss of billions of rupees to the national exchequer.

While addressing the media in Multan, Business Development Analyst Mohsin Ali mentioned that South Punjab has been the most affected by tax-evaded and smuggled brands, which are being openly sold at retail outlets.

After successive increases in excise duties, consumers have moved to cheaper, tax evaded and smuggled cigarette options which are illegal. The irony is that these cigarette brands are openly sold in the market as enforcement has not been able to create the desired level of deterrence.

A market visit was conducted to different areas in Multan by media personnel to overview the growing trend of illicit cigarettes and how laws are openly being flouted. It is important to note that the government of Pakistan has set the minimum price of a pack of cigarettes at Rs 127.44, which is not being enforced in letter and spirit.

Majority of the cigarette brands are being sold at prices ranging from Rs.80 to Rs.130. It was also observed that majority of the cigarettes being sold were without Track and Trace Stamps.

Smuggled cigarettes of various brands were also available which were being sold without Graphical Health Warning. Illicit cigarette manufacturers are openly flouting rules and regulations through free cigarette packets and reward schemes among other activities.

In order to curb this growing trend of illicit cigarettes, the government must sensitize its Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) against this organized crime network and take strict action against the sale and distribution network of the tax-evaded cigarette industry. — DNA