ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Commerce has opposed a proposal of the Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB), which is not in favour of increasing the pictorial health warning on cigarette packs.
Earlier, the Ministry of National Health Regulation had suggested increasing the size of the picture to cover 85% of the pack compared to existing 40% in order to discourage smoking.
Dismissing the PTB’s proposal, the commerce ministry said it would go according to the recommendation of the Ministry of National Health Regulation keeping in view the larger public interest, a source in the ministry said.
“The ministry and the prime minister have powers to prevent the implementation of any decision or suggestion of the tobacco board,” the officer said.
The PTB, however, was of the view that the larger pictorial health warning, rather than reducing the smoking trend, would only affect the revenue and promote smuggling and illicit trade in cigarettes. “The move will hurt the interest of farmers and legal manufacturers,” it said.
The introduction of the new warning is being debated for the last four years. The health ministry has proposed that the size of the warning should be increased to 85%, which is similar to that in Thailand and India, to meet the obligation under Article 11 of the Framework Convention of Tobacco Control.
Every year, over 100,000 people die in Pakistan because of tobacco-related illnesses and the number is on the rise.
Most of the illicit trade is taking place in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
The proposed pictorial warning will cover both sides of the cigarette pack in Urdu and English languages. The cigarettes manufactured and imported into the country will carry the warning.
According to a research report prepared by Nielsen, 23.7% of total cigarette trade in Pakistan is illicit and avoids the tax net. Of this, local tax-evaded (LTE) cigarettes account for 17.3 billion sticks, which is 89% of the gross illegal cigarette trade. The remaining stems from smuggling. According to the report, 2 billion cigarettes are smuggled into Pakistan annually, mainly from Afghanistan.
It added the illicit trade, whether in the form of smuggling, local tax evasion or counterfeit, was a global phenomenon, with one in every 10 cigarettes and tobacco products reported to be illicit.
In 2013, Pakistan ranked fourth in Asia in terms of illicit cigarette share in the total cigarette market in the country.
Courtesy : Express Tribune