Crackdown on illicit tobacco will help stamp out crime

Editor’s Note: See also the joint report of the Departments of State, Treasury, Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services: The Global Illicit Trade in Tobacco: A Threat to National Security.

From: The National (UAE)

National Editorial

Tobacco smuggling undermines public health and funds nefarious activities

The decision to ban the import of cigarettes that lack a sophisticated new digital seal is a welcome step forward in the battle against a habit that is as bad for national institutions as it is for individual health. Last year the government imposed a 100 per cent tax on tobacco products. Worryingly, half of the UAE’s estimated 900,000 smokers reacted by turning to illegal cigarettes, a decision with grave consequences both for their own welfare and with a detrimental knock-on effect.

Contrary to what many smokers believe, governments do not impose heavy taxes on tobacco products simply to generate income at their expense. Taxing tobacco acts as a disincentive to smoke. Every year, about 3,000 people are killed by smoking in the UAE. Smoking also kills non-smokers, including smokers’ family members. Of the 7.21 million global deaths caused by smoking in 2016, nearly one in seven was attributed to secondhand smoke. While it is widely recognised that simply banning smoking outright would be an unpopular measure and almost impossible to enforce, governments have a responsibility to do something. Raising prices is a mechanism that has been repeatedly shown to reduce smoking and save lives, to say nothing of health insurance costs.

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