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ISLAMABAD: The cigarette production has surged by 14.5 percent with a total worth of over Rs25 billion in the first six months of current fiscal year, according to the data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) for July-December (2020-21).

The official data showed a significant increase in production and sale of the cigarettes in the country, contrary to the government’s claims of discouraging the use of tobacco products in the country.

Quoting data, experts told Business Recorder that as per the Planning and Development Department of the Punjab the manufacturing of cigarettes, their sales and stock have increased by 9.4 percent and 19.2 percent respectively in Punjab during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in the province.

These official statistics outright reject the stance of foreign cigarette companies in Pakistan that there is a decline in their production and sales of the cigarettes because of the increase in the illicit trade.

A recent research study has revealed that Pakistan was bearing an annual $1.3 billion financial burden due to different diseases caused by the tobacco products including cancer and heart diseases.

The study further disclosed that Pakistan is included in the 15 states of the world bearing the worst impacts of smoking related health problems, according to the study. The data showed that 22 million Pakistanis consume the tobacco related products daily, causing deaths of 160,100 individuals annually.

Anti-tobacco activists have urged the government to discourage the use of tobacco in the youth by imposing additional taxes on the product and ensure strict implementation of the anti-tobacco laws in the country.

Malik Imran Ahmed, country head of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said that use of tobacco products especially cigarettes, was increasing in the country due to low taxes and poor implementation of the relevant laws.

He said the government should use the tool of price and taxes to discourage the production and sales of cigarettes as suggested by the World Health Organisation. The WHO has recommended taxes up to 75 percent of the retail price of tobacco products to discourage its use.

Ahmed said the multinational companies and certain interest groups were misleading the government against the additional taxes like health levy on the tobacco products to discourage their use, though it can help the government to collect around Rs40 billion per annum additional revenues from the tobacco products.

He said the multinational companies would launch a campaign before every budget for reduction in the FED despite the fact that production and sales of their cigarettes were registering a significant increase.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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