Tobacco trade in Pakistan needs correct narrative through real data: experts


The taxation policies towards tobacco industry in Pakistan need to be based on real evidence, including the facts and figures about the share of illicit and smuggled products in Pakistani market. This was the crux of discussion by trade experts during the webinar ‘Illicit, illegal or smuggled tobacco products in Pakistan – deconstructing tobacco industry’s narratives’ organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

Additional Collector Pakistan Customs, FBR, Dr Karam Elahi, while highlighting the issues concerning tobacco industry, asserted that one of the major problems pertaining our economy is the lack of written documentations and the same applies on the tobacco industry. He suggested that there should be tobacco control in the country. He said that political consensus should be developed for coming up with the right tax policies to respond the challenges in the industry.

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Country Lead, The Union, Mr Khurram Hashmi, was of view that it is high time to revisit the existing debate around the industry with the lens of wellbeing of the people. Besides, coordination amongst stakeholders should be improved to build a joint narrative about the tobacco industry and taxation issues.

Dr Amina Khan, Executive Director, The Initiative, while presenting facts and figures about illicit tobacco trade in Pakistan, asserted that regular and timely information on tobacco users of Pakistan could help in making key policy decisions pertaining industry and taxation issues. She said that there are several measures that could be taken to stop and discourage tax evasion in the industry. She added further that we need track and trace system and upstream enforcement using the IOCO ratio to respond to various loopholes.

Mr Waseem Janjua, Senior Researcher, SDPI, earlier highlighted that there are various narratives about the illicit trade and share in taxation by tobacco companies, but most of such narratives does not hold any truth. He concluded that one and the six packs consumed in Pakistan could be illicit whereas tobacco companies tend to misguide the government about the facts to influence taxation polices.

Senior analyst, Mr Waseem Saleem, was of view that we have a complex market of tobacco. He suggested that all the factors pertaining illicit trade and smuggling and its impacts on the industry should be thoroughly analyzed for the right policy measures. Syed Ali Wasif Naqvi, Senior Research Associate, SDPI, earlier presented an overview of the tobacco industry and taxation policy in Pakistan.

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