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Taxation Could be the Way to Deter Smokers

Asma Ali Zain / 4 March 2009

DUBAI - A 200 per cent tax on tobacco and its products is being proposed by the GCC Committee for Tobacco Control, a senior Ministry of Health (MoH) official said on Tuesday.

The proposal to be considered by economy ministries aims to double the value of Customs duties on all tobacco products within the GCC  to arrest increasing smoking habits in the region.

But the proposal was facing some resistance, Dr Wedad Maidoor, head of the UAE National Committee on Tobacco Control at the Ministry of Health, told Khaleej Times.

“If this proposal is implemented, the price of a cigarette pack, for example, is expected to double from Dh6 to Dh12,” Dr Maidoor said.

“However, when and how this will be done is still being discussed,” she said after the first day of the national committee’s meeting in Dubai.

Dr Maidoor said the proposal will be taken up with the Federal Tax Agencies and ministries of economy of all Gulf states. She also said the draft anti-tobacco law pending cabinet approval, bans the sale of tobacco products to under-18s. “The law will be applicable at a federal level as per the World Health Organisation standards,” she added.

Currently, Dubai does not allow the sale of tobacco products to those under 20.

According to the World Health Organisation, tobacco consumption kills more than five million people each year and a further increase in consumption is expected by 2020.

The law will also ban presence of children in shisha cafes.

“Currently we have no regulations in this regard. The Arab custom of family gatherings in shisha cafes, in fact, exposes children to second hand smoke that kills,” she added.

Dr Ali Ahmed bin Shukr, Director General of the MoH said, “This meeting will study developments that have taken place under the tobacco control programme.” He suggested that the committee should also conduct epidemiological studies and consider setting up a unified database on tobacco usage trends.

Nasser Khalifa Al Badoor Director of the  Department  of  Foreign  Relations, MoH said that besides prohibiting cultivation of tobacco for trade and industry, the law also bans import of candy/toys that resemble tobacco products, besides several other points. Violators can face stiff penalties, including prison and fines of up to Dh50,000.


Warning on Pack in Pictures

DUBAI - Pictorial warnings will be part of tobacco products packaging in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries in six months, according to Dr Wedad Maidoor.

“We have finalised the pictures to be displayed on all tobacco products while a large font size will also be part of the written warnings on these products before they hit the markets,” she explained.

At least 11 pictures (of a milder nature) have been found suitable for the Gulf market and will be part of all brands and forms of tobacco products. Among the several written warnings are: ‘Tobacco causes cancer’, ‘Tobacco use can harm the baby’ and ‘Tobacco kills’.

Tobacco companies would also have to seek Ministry of Health’s opinion before marketing their products. Several countries such as Australia, Canada and Brazil are already following these regulations.


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