Ban foreign cigarettes without health warnings: OICCI

KARACHI: The government has been advised to ban import of cigarettes without health warnings in order to discourage smuggling.

The Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI) in its proposals for budget 2019/2020, said that harmonization of import policy on cigarettes with local health warning regulation on cigarettes to reduce consumption of smuggled cigarettes in Pakistan.

Referring to first quarterly report for 2016/2017 issued by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the OICCI said illicit cigarette consumption in Pakistan was recorded at an alarming 40 percent of the total market demand resulting in loss of government revenue up to Rs 40 billion rupees.

This includes smuggled cigarettes that enter Pakistan mostly from Afghanistan border.

“Due to non-harmonization of local health warning regulations and import policy, illicit cigarettes without local health warning can be imported in the country.”

Furthermore, once seized by law enforcement agencies they are then auctioned which generates documentation used to smuggle more illicit cigarettes in the country.

The OICCI recommended the harmonization of import policy to local health warning regulation will discourage smuggling as cigarettes without the local health warning regulation will not be allowed in the country legally and when such smuggled cigarettes are seized they will be destroyed instead of auctioned.

Giving rationale of the proposals, the OICCI said that non – harmonization of import policy and local health warning regulation results in a loop hole for cigarette smugglers to use.

Furthermore, smuggled cigarettes seized are auctioned instead of being destroyed which creates legal cover to smuggle more cigarettes in the country.

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