Raising taxes and changing the set of gory pictures on cigarette packs are among the steps that will soon be taken by the UAE to curb tobacco use in the country.
Ahead of World No Tobacco Day tomorrow, a senior official from the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention said the increased taxes will be implemented soon.
The new set of pictorial health warnings for cigarette packets is also being developed, Dr Hussain Al Rand, Assistant Under-Secretary for Health Centres and Clinics at the ministry told Khaleej Times.
While the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) theme for this year’s World No Tobacco Day is focused on plain packaging, the UAE plans to use a second set of gory pictures in an attempt to discourage smokers.
The pictures – that are approved by all GCC countries – are due to be revised this year. “The change of pictures is among the different measures to curb tobacco use,” said Dr Al Rand.
When asked if UAE would consider plain packaging, the official said the point was also ‘being discussed.’
Another way to curb tobacco menace is to fine violators of the law or bylaw.
“We will also raise public awareness about smoking hazards, provide smoking cessation services, increase taxes on tobacco products and develop a new set of pictorial health warning of cigarette packs,” said Dr Al Rand.
The current packaging, introduced in mid-2012, covers 50 per cent of the cigarette packet with pictorial warnings both in Arabic and English that are used on a rotation basis. A total of five pictures are used in rotation.
Dr Wedad Al Maidoor, the then head of the National Committee for Tobacco Control, had said that the UAE planned to propose plain packaging for tobacco products in 2016 for a more forceful impact. She had also said that the country would push for an increase in the size of the picture to up to 70 per cent.
Plain cigarette packaging requires removal of all branding (colours, imagery, corporate logos and trademarks), permitting man-ufacturers to print only the brand name in a mandated size, font and place on the pack, in addition to the health warnings and any other legally mandated information. Appearance of all tobacco packs is standardised, including the colour of the pack.
Currently, Australia and Ireland are the only two countries that have introduced plain packaging.
In 2014, Australia officials announced that the nation’s daily smoking rate, among people aged 14 years and older, declined from 15.1 per cent to 12.8 per cent between 2010 and 2013.
The drop in the smoking rate shows that the plain-packaging law enforced at the end of 2012 – as well as the 25 per cent tax increase Australia instituted in 2010
GCC nod for hiked excise taxes
An increase in excise taxes on tobacco products has already been approved by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and could be in place soon, according to Dr Al Rand.
“The GCC approved the increase in 2015 during their last meeting which will be implemented in the near future,” said Dr Hussain Al Rand, Assistant Under-Secretary for Health Centres and Clinics at the ministry.
The UAE has currently imposed 100 per cent tax on tobacco products and talks to increase it by another 100 as ‘health tax’ have been on going.
The official, however, said that the tax percentage was still under discussion.