DUBAI - A UAE retail chain has vowed to join the country’s fight against tobacco products by stopping the sale of cigarettes which has an annual turnover of Dh10 million.
The Ajman-based Al Manama Group will be the first supermarket and hypermarket chain to voluntarily stop the sale of cigarettes, said AK Sabeer, the group’s managing director. Union Co-op that does not sell pork products and cigarettes due to religious and health reasons is the only retail group that has never sold cigarettes in the UAE. In 2002, Adnoc filling stations became the first petrol stations to stop the sale of tobacco products.
Complying with a Dubai Municipality initiative, nearly 200 outlets including petrol stations in Dubai had banned the sale of tobacco for a day on the World No Tobacco Day last year.
Sabeer, who has been toying with the idea for nearly a year, said he decided to kick butts off the shelves to support the anti-tobacco initiatives of the UAE government. “When the government is spending so much on anti-tobacco programmes and awareness campaigns, this was the least I could do to offer my support,” he told Khaleej Times.
The group currently has 16 outlets, including supermarkets and hypermarkets, in all emirates except Abu Dhabi. Two new outlets in Dubai have recently opened without cigarettes on their shelves, while the rest of the outlets started implementing the ban almost three months ago. “We have been clearing our existing stock for the past three months. We have asked the agents to take back the pending stock. Only a few more cartons are left with us. Once that also gets over, we will make an official announcement about it.”
Currently in India for opening a new outlet in Kerala, Sabeer said the group will not sell cigarettes in their outlets in India as well. “Almost 75 per cent of our customers are happy about the move. The rest of them are smokers who initially had voiced their disapproval. But, they are now used to the new system. They can go somewhere else if they want to buy cigarettes.”
However, Al Manama’s Business Development Manager Samil Musaliar said there has been pressure from cigarette companies to revoke their decision. “Some company representatives even approached us with special promotional offers. Our MD has taken a hard decision and we are going to stick to that,” he said.
Sabeer said the group’s first outlet in Ajman had begun the sale of cigarettes with one carton of Marlboro that he bought for Dh26 in 1988. “Now our yearly turnover in cigarette sales is Dh10 million.” He said the group also plans to start an anti-tobacco awareness programme once it makes the official announcement about the total ban on sale of cigarettes.