Will you quit smoking now? UAE residents divided

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Dubai - While some see excise tax as an opportunity to quit, others are willing to spend extra, or source it from outside the country.

By Sarwat Nasir

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Published: Mon 2 Oct 2017, 7:59 PM

Last updated: Mon 21 Aug 2023, 3:43 PM

Some young adults in Dubai are looking to reduce or completely quit smoking, following the implementation of tax on tobacco in the UAE, while others are looking for clever ways to get tobacco from outside of the country by asking their friends or family to bring in cigarettes when visiting the UAE.

Residents rushed to supermarkets, petrol stations and tobacco shops last week to stock up on cigarettes as there is now a 100 per cent tax on tobacco goods.

UAE residents to pay double for tobacco products

And that rush was reflected in the sales trends of some supermarkets on Sunday. One manager of a Downtown-based supermarket told Khaleej Times they noticed sales were a "little slow" on the first day of the excise tax being implemented on tobacco, energy drinks and high-in sugar drinks.

"I think that's because a lot of people have stocked up in advance. We witnessed the rush ourselves over the last week. I think we will only get a clearer picture if sales are permanently down in the coming weeks, when people's stockpiles run out."

Speaking to Khaleej Times, a 19-year-old Emirati-Saudi student, Ahmed Alhayed, said that prices of cigarettes are "too high" for him now as he does not have a full time job.

Can a store sell existing stock at old rates?

But he sees it as an opportunity to quit the "bad habit".

"I'm not going to be importing cigarettes from outside of the country. I think this is a chance for me to reduce how much I smoke and eventually and hopefully I'll stop completely.

"I bought five packets of cigarettes a day before the tax came in so that I will be good for a week or two, but I don't plan on buying many - or maybe even any - after I finish these."

Another student, who smokes dokha, said he can't afford to smoke as much as he used to because a small size pot of dokha, which used to cost Dh25, now costs Dh50 - a price he can't afford to pay every other week.

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"I don't have a job," said 18-year-old Emirati student Mohammed Al Fares. "I can't pay twice the amount. Paying the original price was already difficult for me, how will I pay double? I've been trying to stop smoking and, maybe, this is the time to stop. One day when I have a job and I have money, I might be strong enough to turn a cigarette down."

Although, not everyone is willing to give up smoking following the implementation of the tax.

A 20-year-old Syrian student, Azzam Al Ahmed, said he'll try to get cigarettes from outside of the country.

"If I travel I'll get them from another country or I'll ask anyone who is visiting from outside of UAE to bring some. I'm not going to quit smoking - I just need to find another way to get them," Ahmed said, who bought six packs of cigarettes on Saturday.

Indian expat, Tanushree Lohti, 22, also plans on continuing smoking despite the new tax.

"The thing with Dubai is that things are priced differently in different places. So, if you go to small shop, it's still considered cheap. And if you're regular smoker, it'll be really difficult," she said. "I don't think it'll make that much of a difference. I was in Sydney and I was paying $25 for a pack, and I didn't stop then, so, I don't think I will stop now."

And Emirati, Ahmed Mufta said he doesn't think it will encourage people to stop smoking altogether.

"It may make people smoke less or force them to go to an alternative source, like an electronic cigarette. But it won't make me quit. I work offshore a lot so smoking is something that helps ease my stress and make time pass quicker."

Shell out more to damage your health

The UAE's selective tax will cover products that are damaging to public health. The purpose of the tax is to limit the consumption of such products, while contributing to an increase in government revenues.

1,610 is the number of commodities covered by the UAE's selective taxation

50-930 is the selective tax rate

Dh7 billion is the expected increase in govt revenues after collection of the selective tax

974 of taxable products are soft drinks

417 of taxable products are tobacco products and its derivatives

219 of the products are energy drinks


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