On Tuesday, the coalition of tobacco control expressed anger over the publication of an advertisement that called for a stop to the illicit trade of cigarettes in the country.
The ad in question claimed that yearly, Pakistan loses PKR 44 billion to illegal cigarette trade. It further stated that this could be used to educate 2.5 million students, 250,000 homes could be provided with power, and three meals daily for a month could be provided to 9 million people. The ad also asks the people to sign a pledge asking for the illegal cigarette trade to be banned at www.stopillegaltrade.pk, which is backed financially by Philip Morris Pakistan.
Khurram Hashmi, CTC-Pakistan’s National Coordinator said, “This ad can be described as the best example of a smokescreen.” He added that like the rest of the world, Pakistan is facing an economic crisis due to the coronavirus and the tobacco industry is trying to style itself with a helping hand.
Khurram said, as per World Bank’s estimate, the tobacco industry in Pakistan overestimates the illegal trade as one of the ways to plot a 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.
Khurram added that there are two other ploys including forestalling meaning hike in production or price over-shifting.
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. This is nothing but a futile attempt to avoid tax raises on their life-threatening product, cigarettes.
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