Dubai The UAE will make smoking more expensive as it plans to increase the price of tobacco and tobacco products, a senior health official said yesterday.
Dr Wedad Al Maidour, head of the tobacco control team, said it is coordinating with the ministry of finance to make the habit costlier for smokers. A pack of cigarettes on average currently costs Dh7 across the emirates.
She said it will be difficult to impose an additional levy on tobacco, but that the team hopes to make it more expensive for smokers at the check-out counters of shops. Studies have shown that whenever there is an increase in cigarette price there is a drop in smoking among teenagers.
Another deterrent to smoking is that half of cigarette packets will be covered with graphic images to send home the message that smoking kills. Currently the packs only carry a warning that smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and heart diseases.
Dr Al Maidour said countries such as Canada, Australia and Thailand have imposed a law that cigarette packs should have graphic images. She said Uruguay has made it mandatory that 80 per cent of the pack should be taken up by the images.
“In the UAE we plan for 50 per cent of the pack to carry the graphics,” she said, but noted they will not be pictures of decaying lungs. “[One] will show a snake and [one] a child with a face mask,’ she said (the snake is designed to show that smoking is deadly).
Senior Ministry of Health officials yesterday warned that a significant section of the adult population in the country are smokers and hoped that the new law will also cut down the rate of people affected by passive smoking. Detailing the new anti-tobacco law which went into effect last week, Dr Salem Al Dermaki, acting director-general of the Ministry of Health, said relevant departments will work in tandem to implement the laws, noting that legal experts are working on drafting the bylaws.
The director-general said the law which prohibits smoking in a car with a child is unique to the UAE.
He said coffee shops and shisha shops will be given a grace period of two years to move out of residential areas. “It will be taken on a case-to-case basis,” he said, as the ministry will check how a shisha shop is affecting people nearby.
He said that for those who do not take the message to stop smoking seriously there will be strong deterrents in place. “Smoke if you wish but you cannot harm others,” he said, adding that the laws will protect the most vulnerable in the society, the children. “This Federal law supports all local authorities,” he said. He also said the ministry will clamp down hard on advertisements that encourage smoking.