The widespread availability of illegal cigarettes in Pakistan poses a significant threat to public health, as authorities struggle to curb their sale. Despite government efforts to crack down on retailers and smuggling, these illegal cigarettes remain easily available at much lower prices than legal brands.
Experts have expressed concerns that the rampant violation of tobacco control laws and the unfettered sale of illegal cigarettes are undermining the government’s health policies. With over half of the cigarette market now occupied by illicit cigarettes, Pakistan has become one of the largest hubs for illegal cigarettes in Asia.
Similarly, the lack of regulation on loose cigarette sales and the sale of cigarettes to minors further exacerbates the problem. These easy access points are hindering efforts to restrict tobacco consumption and promoting smoking among minors.
The prevalence of cheap illegal cigarettes is straining the health budgets of both federal and provincial governments, diverting resources away from essential healthcare services. To address this growing public health crisis, the government must prioritise curbing the sale of illegal cigarettes nationwide and take stringent measures against illegal cigarette manufacturers.
ABU BAKAR KAREEM,