islamabad-The consumer accessible price of cigarette brands is more alarming for health of the people in the country than the illicit trade in the country, which has a low volume contrary to the claim of tobacco industry, report said on Monday.

Pakistan National Heart Association and Human Development Foundation in a study to assess the volume of illicit cigarette brands in the country said that contrary to the claims of tobacco industry only 09percent illicit cigarette trade is occurring in the country.

The report said that the tobacco industry’s claim of 40percent trade is against the facts while a large number of people are facing health problems including cancer because of accessible price of cigarettes in the country.

The report prepared by officials of Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and Tobacco Control Cell (TBC) Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) stated that in a survey conducted in ten larger cities of the country included Karachi, Lahore, Sukkur, Multan, Hyderabad, Peshawar, Quetta, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad and Noweshehra, only 09percent illicit trade of cigarette was observed.

The report said that along with 09percent illicit cigarette volume, 3.4percent packs were being sold without complying to the health pictorial warning, 5.58percent with textual warnings in foreign languages, 0.58% were duty free, 09 were packed without printed price and 9% without any mention of the GST.  

The assessment in the report said that “The maximum percentage of illicit packs was around 9percent based on the percentage collected by the empty packs from retailers and it was also noted that a higher percentage of illicit packs were observed in the expensive brands category as opposed to the cheaper brands. It was also observed that in most cities the number of illicit packs in the expensive brands category was much higher than the cheaper brands”.

The report defying the claim of tobacco industry regarding volume of illicit cigarette trade in the market of the country said that tobacco industry’s contention that illicit cigarettes constitute a major chunk of the total sold in the market is not supported, given the criteria specified. The portion of the illicit packs in the data set as a whole is around 10percent. The bulk of the packs scrutinized did indeed meet most of the criteria for legitimate products.

According to NHS around 160000 people annually face health issues because of tobacco consumption, while mouth and lungs cancer is on the rise because of smoking.

Pakistan National Heart Association official Zahid Shafiq while talking to The Nation said that the tobacco industry is showing an exaggerated figure of illicit trade as the tax on specific brands had been reduced the previous year which resulted in the profit and consumption of tobacco.

He said that Pakistan is the signatory of FCT convention according to which the cigarette prices must be increased up to 70% in the country along with an increase in pictorial warnings.

Zahid Rafique said that the study was conducted to counter-check the claim of the tobacco industry however; the results negated the volume of illicit trade given by the tobacco industry.

NHS had already intimated Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to increase the taxation on tobacco industry in the upcoming budget along with eliminating the third slab introduced last year to discourage the tobacco consumption.

Minister for NHS Saira Afzal Tarar said in the Standing Committee that the Ministry had fought a battle to control the tobacco consumption in the country. She said that the ministry has banned the sale of loose cigarettes all over the country, while FBR has been asked to increase the tax on the tobacco industry for revenue generation.