Pakistani smokers preferring non-duty paid cigarettes over legal brands: report

illegal cigarettes in Pakistan

WEB DESK: In a significant move against the growing issue of illicit tobacco trade, designated teams of Inland Revenue Service Officers from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) conducted a nationwide operation in the first fortnight of January 2024.

The recent operation, spearheaded by Member Inland Revenue Operations, Mir Badshah Khan Wazir, seized and confiscated a substantial quantity of non-duty-paid and counterfeit cigarettes.

A staggering 3.77 million cigarette sticks, of both local and foreign brands, were apprehended during the operation, as detailed in a press release on Monday.

This resolute action sends a strong message that any attempts to evade the government’s revenue will be met with strict consequences, with culprits directly held liable for penal proceedings.

Reports indicate that the illegal cigarette industry in Pakistan has reached unprecedented levels, surpassing the volume of the legal sector.

Shockingly, current statistics reveal that 51.4 billion illegal cigarette sticks are being sold in the country, while the legal industry has dwindled to 29.6 billion cigarette sticks.

One alarming revelation is the use of fake tax stamps on cigarette packets in the illegal sector.

The Pakistan Tobacco Company (PTC) has called for stringent action against those involved in this unlawful trade, emphasising the inability to implement track and trace systems in local cigarette factories in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir.

The PTC contends that the reported volume of illegal trade is misleading and does not align with ground realities. According to them, the actual figures differ significantly from the official FBR figures, and they insist on strict actions against those engaged in illegal cigarette trading.

Earlier this month, it was reported that the country is losing approximately Rs5.7 billion annually due to the sale of fake cigarettes and evading duties and taxes.

The sources reveal that a considerable quantity of fake or non-duty-paid cigarettes, identifiable by fake tax stamps, are still circulating in the market.

Over 42.5 million counterfeit tax stamp cigarettes are estimated to be in circulation, with only two cigarette companies currently fully implementing track and trace systems.

Industry members are now calling for all cigarette manufacturing companies to enforce strict track and trace systems to curb the illicit trade and protect the government’s revenue.

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