Unfair taxes lead consumers to shift towards illicit cigarettes

KARACHI-Despite the proliferation of illegal cigarettes in the country the extraordinary increase in FED has raised new questions about the government’s revenue targets to raise Rs 170 billion in additional revenue. The federal government is relying heavily on cigarette sector to generate new revenue of Rs 170 billion to cover the budget deficit. According to the tobacco industry, cigarette is the sector in Pakistan where the rate of tax evasion is already very high and now the extraordinary increase in federal excise duty will further increase this trend.
In this study visit, various brands were being sold at half the price of the legal tax-paying cigarette brands while posters of various reward schemes and incentives were also displayed to increase sales. Surprisingly, at a cigarette shop located in the Latifabad area in Hyderabad, cigarettes of smuggled brands were found to be sold at a lower price of Rs 50-100 per pack than locally produced illegal cigarettes.
A local illegal cigarette brand openly violated the government price rules while raising the price by Rs 30. On the other hand, also increased the number of cigarette sticks in the pack, and now a pack of 25 sticks is currently being sold at Rs 150 with new packaging.
The local people said that inflation has increased the problems of people addicted to smoking, now it is not easy for them to buy cigarettes of legal cigarette brands.
The government had set a target of collecting taxes of 200 billion rupees from the cigarette industry in the fiscal year 2022-23, while the unusual increase in the FED will not only dent the government collection targets but also have a detrimental effect on the legal cigarette industry to force them to shut down their business.
Also, there is a fear of a 50% reduction in the sale of legal cigarettes. The sudden increase will also raise the price of legal cigarettes by 100 percent. This will only benefit illegal cigarette brands who are also increasing their prices, margins, and market penetration.
The legal tobacco industry has urged government that the recent hike in FED will cause legal cigarette sales in Pakistan to lose market share, going from 60% to less than 50%, and cheap illegal cigarettes will fill the void, discouraging investment in the legal industry.

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