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Illicit cigarette sale in India under 3%: BMJ study

A pack was classified as illicit if it had a duty-free sign, no graphic health warnings, no textual health warnings or no mention of ‘price inclusive of all taxes’.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2018 10:21 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Cigarette,India,Cigarette Sales
A man smokes a cigarette along a road in Mumbai, India, October 26, 2016. (Reuters File Photo)

The sale of illicit cigarettes in India is much less than the estimate given by the tobacco industry, which puts the figure between 20-21%, a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) shows.

The study that was published on Tuesday said it was much less than tobacco industry estimate of 20% and market research company Euromonitor’s estimate of 21.3%.

It was conducted by analysing empty cigarette packets. Empty cigarette packs generated in a day’s single-cigarette sales were collected directly from vendors in four large and four small cities across India.

A total of 11,063 empty cigarette packs from 1,727 retailers were analysed, and 2.73% of them were classified as illicit. A pack was classified as illicit if it had at least one of the following attributes: A duty-free sign; no graphic health warnings; no textual health warnings; or no mention of ‘price inclusive of all taxes’ or similar text.

The study said that illicit cigarettes are primarily distributed through formal stores rather than informal tea or paan shops.

The estimates varied substantially across locations with the highest prevalence of illicit packs in Mizoram’s capital Aizawl located near the Bangladesh and Myanmar border at 35.87%.

The share of illicit cigarettes was much higher at 13.77% among the cheapest cigarette brands.

“For decades policymakers have been misled with fabricated statistics to garner sympathy and derail efforts for higher taxation and pack warning,” Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, senior head and neck surgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital, said.

Tobacco use is the second largest cause of early death and chronic diseases. More than 900,000 people die each year in India due to tobacco-related illnesses, the government estimates.

First Published: Jan 18, 2018 10:21 IST