Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image


Oman health: Hike cigarette tax to cut down on smoking, says official

MUSCAT: Cigarettes prices should be doubled in Oman so they remain out of reach for most people, a senior official at the Ministry of Health said.

“A pack of cigarettes, which now costs OMR1, should be made OMR2, or more, so that people will think twice before buying them. And from the extra tax money we can build a hospital every year,” said Dr Jawad Al Lawati, senior consultant and rapporteur for the National Tobacco Control Committee at the Ministry of Health (MoH), speaking to Times of Oman.

Talking about his wishes for 2017, Dr Al Lawati said that tobacco taxes should be increased so cigarettes remain out of reach for most people.

About 14 per cent of Oman’s male population smokes, while 0.5 per cent of women smoke.

In September, Oman raised the tax on tobacco products from 20 per cent to 40 per cent, a 100 per cent increase aimed at reducing smoking in the Sultanate.

The cost for cigarettes rose from OMR1 for a pack to OMR1.2. The tax on tobacco products was raised for the first time in 17 years.

The higher tax on tobacco was announced after Bahrain raised its tax in January and Saudi Arabia in March 2016. Citing records, officials also said 60 per cent of all deaths in Oman are caused by non-communicable diseases, such as cardio-vascular conditions, including coronary heart disease and cancers.

Earlier, Majlis Al Shura members had requested the government to carry out a proposal prepared by the Ministry of Health to impose taxes on tobacco. “We have to raise prices so that they remain beyond the reach of children,” one of them said, noting that countries that had previously raised taxes on tobacco have been able to significantly reduce the impact of tobacco use.

“We hope that the price of a pack [of cigarettes] will be higher, and rise to a level that can help reduce consumption,” he said. The comparative prices of a pack of Marlboro Red cigarettes are: Saudi Arabia –SAR12, Oman –OMR1.2, Bahrain–BHD1.3, Qatar – QAR10, UAE – AED10, Kuwait – KWD0.75 – Source: Cost of Living


By Madhuparna Bhattacharjee

In the coming weeks, Oman may take a decision to completely ban electronic cigarettes, which are increasingly becoming popular around the world as a substitute for tobacco smoking and claimed to be risk-free by manufacturers.

Talking to Muscat Daily, Dr Jawad al Lawati, senior consultant and rapporteur of the National Tobacco Control Committee in the Ministry of Health, said, “Sale of e-cigarettes is at present not allowed in the country and a permanent comprehensive ban is being considered by concerned authorities.”

As of now, the sultanate has no formal ban in place on such cigarettes.

Oman, however, is on the list of nations that restrict their promotion and sale.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) is considering a ban on e-cigarettes in view of several international recommendations based on case reports and medical studies illustrating their addictive nature, Dr Lawati said.

“They have not been approved by international health agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the World Health Organization (WHO) and the safety of these cigarettes is yet to be proven,” he added.

The electronic nicotine delivery systems report (by The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) for 2014 states that 47 countries either have bans or restrictions in place on e-cigarettes.

Among the 47 are Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Colombia, Greece, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lithuania, Mauritius, Mexico, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Singapore, Suriname, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, Uruguay, Venezuela.

Of these, 33 countries including Oman prohibits or restricts advertising, promotion or sponsorship of e-cigarettes in their policies. The other GCC countries doing the same are Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE.

A regulation to implement a decision by health ministers of Gulf countries is under way. It will impose a complete ban on sale and marketing of e-cigarettes, says a recent report titled ‘Country Laws Regulating E-cigarettes: A Policy Scan’, published by John Hopkins, Bloomberg School of Public Health, an institute for global tobacco control.

Health officials fear that e-cigarettes are a point-of-entry, which introduce conventional cigarettes and other tobacco products to children, youth and non-smoking adults, Dr Lawati said. Some smokers in Oman smuggle the devices into the country.