Multinationals flagrantly violates Federal Excise Law

Multinationals flagrantly violates Federal Excise Law

Anti tobacco activists have warned that instead of curtailing business of health hazards, multinational tobacco companies have introduced new low priced brands in violation of Federal Excise Act and guidelines of WHO.

The very purpose of increasing cigarette prices was to make it harder to access by people, as has been the case the world over, stated Dr Hassan Shehzad, from IIUI. He added that if low priced brands come into the market to replace costly cigarettes, this purpose is not achieved seemingly.

Malik Imran, from Tobacco Free Kids, said it has been observed that Pakistan Tobacco Company, a multinational subsidiary of British American Tobacco, has introduced a new product, Capstan International, at the price of Rs164. “This, prima facie, is a clear violation of the law. The existing brand is by the name of Capstan by Pall Mall, sold at Rs. 212,” he said.

He said no company is allowed to sell any product below the price set by the government in the Federal Excise Act 2005.

Similarly, said Malik, Philip Morris International, another multinational is flagrantly violating not only the above restriction imposed under the law, but also another restriction which states: “For the purpose of levy, collection and payment of duty at the rates specified in column 4, against serial number 9 and 10, no cigarette manufacturer shall reduce retail price from the level adopted on the day of the announcement of the latest budget.”

He said Marlboro brand belonging to Philip Morris International falls in serial number 9. However, they have introduced “Crafted by Marlboro” in serial number 10 (which attracts lower tax levy). This is specifically prohibited under the law and any attempt to use fanciful labels to bypass the law is a direct violation of the laws of Pakistan, aimed at increasing smoker numbers. The principle behind increasing taxation is to make cigarettes more expensive; whilst these two multinationals are finding new ways of abusing Pakistani laws.

Dr Hassan Shehzad, said, seemingly, these actions run counter to WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to which Pakistan is a signatury. The WHO guidelines, he said, mentions that “Parties (countries) should require the tobacco industry and those working to further its interests to operate and act in a manner that is accountable and transparent. The tobacco industry should be required to provide Parties with information for effective implementation of these guidelines.”

Malik Imran said it is illegal because it is avoiding tax.

Khalid Bin Majeed, another activist, said such introduction and dissemination/marketing of the products falls in the category of promotion of the tobacco product, which is completely illegal and ban in Pakistan by law. This is an additional violation of the law.

“Niether a company, nor any retailer can sell cigarettes by violating federal excise law.

He said the tobacco control cell of the Ministry of National Health Services has become ineffective and not taking any action on such promotional activities.

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