• Is Smoking Decreasing in the UAE?

Is Smoking Decreasing in the UAE?

Feb 23 2020 Read 849 Times

Statistics provided by the government show that smoking and tobacco consumption are decreasing in the UAE. In 2010, 11.1% of the Emirati populace counted themselves as smokers, whereas that figure has fallen to just 9.1% in 2019. Indeed, the number of people kicking the habit has increased rapidly in recent years, thanks to the introduction of excise tax regulations.

In 2017, the government brought in the so-called “sin tax”, which increased the price of some tobacco products by as much as 100%. Meanwhile, a further hike in cigarette prices was introduced by the government at the beginning of December 2019, resulting in another slump in sales and another victory in the fight against tobacco.

Financial deterrents

The 2017 law meant that the number of people attempting to quit smoking rose 122% between 2016 and 2018, with a 47% increase in those attending smoking cessation clinics in the same period. Those figures show a clear correlation between the rise in the price of cigarettes and a drop-off in the proportion of the populace consuming them.

Meanwhile, the most recent directive, which fixed a minimum price of Dh8 ($2.18) for a pack of 40 cigarettes, meant that many retailers had to more than double the price of their cheapest wares. As a result, shopkeepers have reported that they have found difficulties in shifting the old stock. “The additional tax on harmful products is a small price to pay for the larger good of our society,” remarked Dr Cherian Thampy, who works as a medical oncologist at one of the country’s foremost hospitals.

Long way to go

Despite the progress made, there’s still a long road ahead for the UAE to shed the damaging effects of tobacco consumption altogether. In 2016, smoking was responsible for almost 3,000 premature deaths in the Emirates, while the impact upon workforce productivity and healthcare bills cost the national economy an estimated Dh2.02 billion ($550 million).

As of December 2017, cancer remains the third biggest premature killer in the country, behind heart disease and accidents. Directly responsible for 15% of all early deaths, smoking also triples the risk of heart disease and is thought to be a leading factor in the contraction of lung cancer, given that over 50 of the 4,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke are carcinogenic and 200 more are toxic.

Kicking the habit

While the trends are mainly positive, smoking is still largely accepted as a social norm among the Emirati populace – especially the male component. 92% of those 3,000 premature deaths in 2016 were men, meaning that attitudes towards the practice must change if smoking is to be eradicated completely.

While a transition towards vaping has been hailed by some quarters as a less damaging form of smoking, there is evidence that it is also responsible for lung damage. Therefore it would make more sense to clamp down on the practice altogether, phasing out smoking in public places (as has been implemented in many countries around the world, including the UK, with much success), discouraging parents from smoking at home and promoting education in schools about the devastating effects of tobacco consumption.

You can find out more about research into vaping, or e-cigarettes, in the article ‘Analysis of Electronic Cigarette E-Liquids by GC-MS’.

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