Raise tobacco tariff to curb smokers

The World Health Organization has estimated the number of smokers in Kingdom at nearly 6 million. The number is expected to reach 10 million by 2020. Saudis have been spending about SR15 billion annually to buy cigarettes. This means an individual spends an average of SR2,555 annually and SR7 daily, inclusive of taxes, on smoking.

In my opinion, the government should double tobacco tariff to bring cigarette prices to SR15 a packet. The tariff will then reach 70 to 80 percent of the original cigarette price. Even if the price reaches SR15 a packet, it becomes only half the price of cigarette in Europe.

The increase in tariff will bring billions of riyals to the state coffers. If the present cigarette sales annually amount to SR15 billion, then the government will earn at least SR20 billion with the increased tariff. The country requires such a huge amount to treat the various diseases caused by smoking, which eat into the Health Ministry’s budget.

We know that smoking causes chronic diseases. By increasing the tariff we involve smokers in mobilizing funds to treat them when they fall ill because of the undesirable habit as well as to set up specialized deaddiction centers to help them quit smoking.

If an individual stops smoking as a result of unaffordable cigarette prices, that is well and good. Otherwise they will be contributing to the treatment of a patient who fell ill as a result of smoking.

In my opinion, a good portion of the tariff imposed on cigarettes should be used to treat diseases caused by smoking. This will enable the Health Ministry to focus more on other patients and diseases in the country, without being overburdened because of bad habits of individuals.

By doubling the tariff the government will be able to tackle the problem of smoking and generate funds to treat smoking-related diseases. It will also encourage many people to quit smoking because of the huge expenses.
This proposal will have two positive results: The government will receive funds required for the treatment of chronic diseases caused by the unhealthy habit; and the smokers will get the message that they have to contribute to public funds for the treatment of such diseases.

Read more: http://saudigazette.com.sa/saudi-arabia/raise-tobacco-tariff-to-curb-smokers/