KARACHI : Pakistan has a high number of smoking-related deaths in the region, largely due to the availability of tier 2 cigarettes that are priced as low as 0.77 USD per pack. This affordability makes the population more vulnerable to smoking, according to a report by Capital Calling, a network of academic researchers and professionals.
Report indicates that prices of cigarettes are cheaper in Pakistan compared to other countries in the region, where cigarettes sold for $1.21 in Pakistan are priced at $3.03 in India, $2.62 in Bangladesh, and $5.91 in Sri Lanka. As a result, Pakistan has a higher number of smoking-related deaths in the region, with tier 2 cigarettes being a major contributor.
To address this issue, the government increased the Federal Excise Duty (FED) on tobacco through a mini-budget in February, with the aim of raising taxes on tobacco and discouraging its consumption among the youth.
Anti-tobacco activists have stated that the policy has begun to show positive effects.
However, multinational companies have already started lobbying the government to roll back the taxes, using the pretext of illicit cigarettes. These companies have exaggerated the presence of illicit cigarettes in Pakistan, claiming it to be as high as 40 percent.
However, research studies have shown that the share of illicit tobacco is actually 18 percent. Activists argue that multinational companies mislead the government to make cigarettes even more affordable.