South Asia

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South Asia, the southern region of the Asian continent, comprises of eight countries namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. This region covers 11.7% of the Asian continent and 3.5% of the world's land surface area.[1] South Asia (SA), hosting 1.5 Billion people, contribute to 23.3% of the world population.[2]

Tobacco is a major causal factor for the increasing non-communicable disease burden and related premature mortality of the region, hindering its progress on sustainable development.[3][2]South Asian countries share many similarities in socio-economic contexts as well as in factors related to tobacco use and its control.[3] All South Asian countries are Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Image 1: South Asia Map[4]

FCTC Implementation status[5]

  • Afghanistan - Signed: 29 June 2004; Ratified: 13 August 2010[6]
  • Bangladesh - Signed: 16 June 2003; Ratified: 14 June 2004[7]
  • Bhutan - Signed: 9 December 2003; Ratified: 23 August 2004[8]
  • India - Signed: 10 September 2003; Ratified: 5 February 2004[9]
  • Maldives - Signed: 17 May 2004; Ratified: 20 May 2004[10]
  • Nepal - Signed: 3 December 2003; Ratified: 7 November 2006[11]
  • Pakistan - Signed: 18 May 2004; Ratified: 3 November 2004[12]
  • Sri Lanka - Signed: 23 September 2003; Ratified: 11 November 2003[13]

Bhutan in the South Asian region is the first country in the world to implement a total ban on trading tobacco products through the Tobacco Control Act of Bhutan 2010.[14]

Tobacco smoking in South Asia

According to the latest data available in The Tobacco Atlas, the adult smoking is predominant among males than females in South Asia. Prevalence of smoking among adult males (above age 15) ranges from 8.5% (Bhutan) to 35.4% (Bangladesh). Prevalence of smoking among adult females (above age 15) ranges from 0.3% (Sri Lanka) to 7.3% (Nepal).[15]

Burden of Tobacco use in South Asia

The percentage deaths among males due to tobacco is highest in Bangladesh (25.4%) and lowest in Bhutan (6.5%). The highest female deaths due to tobacco is reported from Nepal (14.1%) while the lowest is from Bhutan (4.4%).[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13]

The commonly used tobacco products in South Asia are cigarettes, cigar and bidi while haswar, water pipes and smokeless tobacco products are also in use.

Tobacco Industry in South Asia

The multinational tobacco companies in the South Asia are British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris International(PMI) and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) and Korean Tobacco and Ginsen Corporation (KT&G).

Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) in Sri Lanka Pakistan Tobacco Company, British American Tobacco Bangladesh and ITC Private Limited are subsidiaries of the British American Tobacco (BAT).[16] Along with Surya Nepal Private Limited (SNPL), a joint venture of BAT and ITC, Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC), Pakistan Tobacco Company and BAT Bangladesh also operates locally and across the region. Even though Maldives and Afghanistan do not have direct investments of BAT, the local agents import and trade BAT brands. Bhutan, with its ban on cigarette trades, allows importation for use, and BAT brands traded via ITC Private Limited are commonly imported from India.

Philip Morris International has listed India Philip Morris (IPM) and Philip Morris (Pakistan) Limited, as their market holders in the region.[17] Godfrey Phillips India is the second highest cigarette market holder in India (13.8%), of which, 25% of shares is owned by the India Philip Morris (IPM).[18]Philip Morris Pakistan Limited, the second largest cigarette shareholder in Pakistan has a 20% share of the market. PMI also holds around 8% shares in Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC), the subsidiary of British American Tobacco (BAT) of Sri Lanka. According to a PMI publication in 2018, they are in operation at all South Asian countries except for Bhutan.[19]

Image 2: Philip Morris International subsidiaries in South Asia[19]

Japan Tobacco International (JTI) trades in Bangladesh and Nepal.[20][21] JTI products are imported to Nepal via CG EXIM (Nepal) PVT Limited.[22]


Domestic: The main domestic tobacco distributor in the country is ‘Aram Group’. The other domestic suppliers and manufacturers are Amal Trading, Asia Middle East Co, Nasib Aria Co. Ltd, Sarco Abad and Tamana Ltd.[23] International: The international tobacco companies operating in Afghanistan are Korea Tobacco & Ginseng Corporation (KT&G) and Alokozay Group of Dubai.[23]


In Bangladesh, British American Tobacco (BAT) subsidiary British American Tobacco Bangladesh Group, holds 72.91% of the tobacco market shares.[24]Japan Tobacco International (JTI) is the second largest shareholder of the Bangladesh cigarette market, with 20% of shares.[20]


Bhutan has completely banned the tobacco trade from 2004, thus, does not have a formal industry. However, users can import a limited amount of tobacco products for their own use and majority are imported from India and China.<Ref=Bhutan2020/>


In India ITC Private Limited, a partially state-owned company with an investment of British American Tobacco, currently holds 84.27% of the market share.[25]


Tobacco Industry in Maldives mostly includes importers, distributors and wholesalers as there is only a minor proportion of local manufacturing (bidi). Maldives imports various brands of cigarettes (Camel, Marlboro, Dunhill, American Legend and Benson & Hedges), shisha tobacco and other tobacco products. Main importers are CGT Maldives (Agents Japan Tobacco International (JTI)), Blenx Maldives (Agents for Philip Morris International (PMI)), Lotus Fihaara (Agents for American Legend) , OCC Pvt Ltd (Agents for Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC), various shisha tobacco and vaping products), Grape Expectations Pvt Ltd (for various shisha tobacco brands), Maldives Airports Company Limited (imports various brands and products for airport duty free), NAMCO Pvt Ltd (Importers of Akij Biri, commonly used by Bangladeshi expatriate workers)[26]


Surya Nepal Private Limited (SNPL) is the major shareholder of the cigarette market in Nepal with a 90% of the market share. It is a collaboration of ITC Limited India and British American Tobacco (BAT).


There are two major multinational cigarette companies in Pakistan controlling almost 96% of the legal market. Pakistan Tobacco Company (PTC), a subsidiary of British American Tobacco (BAT), is one of the oldest tobacco companies in Pakistan and controls 66% of the legal market. Philip Morris International (PMI), via its subsidiary Philip Morris Pakistan Limited (PMPKL) controls around 30% of the legal market at present. [27]

Sri Lanka

Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC (CTC) holds the monopoly of cigarette manufacturing and sales in Sri Lanka and 84.13% of its shares are owned by the British American Tobacco (BAT). Around another 8% of shares are owned by Philip Morris International (PMI).[28][29]

Tobacco Cultivation and Manufacturing in South Asia

India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal are cultivating and manufacturing tobacco products while Maldives and Bhutan do not.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13] India being the 3rd largest tobacco cultivators in the world has around 0.25% of India's cultivated land for tobacco production.[30][31] Pakistan is the 8th largest tobacco growing country in the world.[31]

Almost 100% of the tobacco used for cigarette manufacturing in Sri Lanka is cultivated in the country, which approximately 3000 tons of tobacco.[31][32]

In Nepal, tobacco growing is only a small fraction of agriculture in Nepal, with only 0.04% of agricultural land area used for tobacco cultivation. Tobacco cultivation is showing a decreasing trend in Nepal and almost all the tobacco cultivated in the country is used for local manufacturing of cigarettes.[11]

’’TobaccoUnmaskedSouth.Asia’’ resources


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  20. 20.0 20.1 Japan Tobacco International Japan Tobacco International in Bangladesh, undated, accessed February2020
  21. Lisa Du. Japan Tobacco to Acquire Bangladesh Company for $1.5 Billion, 06 August 2018, accessed February 2020
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