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KARACHI: The effective legislation, to reduce public health risks from smoking, has so far failed to deliver lasting results as despite that a number of companies are still selling illegal cigarettes in the country.

Health experts have expressed serious concern over the illegal sale of cigarettes and believed that cigarettes sold in violation of the laws are the biggest threat to public health due to easy and low cost availability of cigarettes and also causing a hike in prevalence of Non-Communicable diseases including cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer.

Alarmingly; the poor and low-income groups are easy prey for these illegal cigarettes, who are already deprived of health and medical care, they added.

They said that the government has made vital laws to curb smoking including, imposition of heavy taxes on cigarettes, pictorial health warnings, complete ban on promotion of cigarettes and sale of cigarettes to minors.

“Every law is being violated openly and there is no one to take notice and as per estimates almost half of the cigarettes sold in Pakistan are illegal,” industry sources said.

The government has set a minimum price of Rs63 per pack but a pack of illegal cigarettes is being sold as low as Rs20. It is easy for the government to implement these laws to the regulated and tax-paying tobacco industry but the illegal sector is violating every anti-smoking law, they added.

Illegal cigarette companies are luring young people to cigarettes through cigarette advertising, reward schemes and the sale of loose cigarettes at low prices. Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are causing 51 percent of total burden of diseases, mostly in young age group.

It is pertinent to mention that a letter had been written by Federal Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination to Police Chiefs of all provinces, couple of months earlier to ensure to strict implementation of Anti-Smoking and Non-Smoking Health Protection Ordinance 2002.

The main reason for the government’s failure is the illegal sale of cigarettes in Pakistan, the volume of which is increasing rapidly, industry sources said. They opined that confiscating the properties and stocks of the makers of illegal cigarette brands will make health policy more effective.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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