GCC plans 200pc hike in tobacco tax
Manama, January 27, 2009
GCC health ministers could soon approve increasing tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products by 200 per cent, a top Bahrain health ministry official said.
The tax had been proposed by several anti-smoking societies in the region in their bid to discourage smoking, said Health Ministry public health and primary care assistant under-secretary Dr Mariam Al Jalahma.
"The proposal, which is now awaiting approval by the GCC health ministers, once passed will be a significant achievement for us," she told the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
"As things stand now, it could be a matter of weeks before the ministers meet and give their final approval," she added
Meanwhile, Dr Al Jalahma, who is also Bahrain Anti Smoking Society deputy chairwoman, said that visitors to Bahrain are also being cautioned on the no-smoking rule in public places such as shopping malls.
She said more than 150,000 leaflets had already been distributed at entry points to Bahrain at King Fahad Causeway and Bahrain International Airport. "The idea is to ensure they are aware of the law and do not face inconvenience when they are at malls and other public places," said Dr Al Jalahma.
"The decision to hand out the leaflets also comes at a time when we started to enforce a no-smoking rule at more than 6,000 restaurants in the country.
"The restaurants have started to comply with the regulations that we had issued more than a week ago and have begun to set up sealed no-smoking facilities.
"We are also alarmed at recent World Health Organisation reports that Bahrain risks increasing numbers of sick people unless it further combats the smoking menace among women and adolescents."
She said a detailed plan on how to deal with smoking and tobacco use in schools as well as among women was being formulated.
Dr Al Jalahma said the habit, if not dealt with at the root, could cost Bahrain significantly in economic terms over the next few years.
She said statistics revealed that 40 per cent of Bahrain's youth under 18 years were regular smokers, of which 14pc were female.
A total of 47pc of Bahraini females of all ages smoke now, compared to 43pc a few years ago, added Dr Al Jalahma.
She said they had noticed a good response to their campaign at the causeway and the airport. "People are really interested in the campaign, in Arabic and English, and many of them have expressed surprise that Bahrain has such regulations in place," said Dr Al Jalahma.-TradeArabia News Service