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31 December 2018 06:45 am

Imminent price hike creates artificial shortage of cigarettes

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With imminent hike in prices of cigarettes due to recently announced taxes on tobacco products which are set to be imposed from January 1, 2019, many smokers are running from pillar to post to get their cigarette brand as many shops have started practising hoarding eyeing undue profits.

While announcing the general budget of Qatar for 2019, the Ministry of Finance had said that a ‘selective tax’ will be imposed on health damaging goods. “The selective tax law is designed to impose taxes on certain health-damaging goods and it will be implemented by the beginning of 2019. The law includes a 100% tax on tobacco and its products and energy drinks, and a 50% tax on sugary drinks,” a statement from the Ministry had said.

Many grocery stores, The Peninsula visited, refused to sell cigarettes citing ‘out of stock’ reason. On repeated queries, they were ready to sell just one packet and that too of the brands which are not much in demand.

“The disappearance of cigarettes from the shelves did not start yesterday as we have noticed the shortage for the past five days. Many grocery stores are reluctant to sell popular cigarette brands and they sell products only to regular customers. The regular customers of these shops are also not being provided with more than one packet of cigarette at one time. What I have noticed is that they have stocks but are waiting for the price hike after tobacco products tax comes into force on January 1, 2019 so that they could make more profits,” said Mohamed Lamin, a regular smoker.

“I support this decision because it encourages us to stop smoking. For example, I was paying QR10 for one packet of Benson & Hedges and after few days, it will cost me much more. I do not know whether I will be able to pay so much every day; I am thinking of stopping smoking,” he added. 

For shisha smokers, some shops have already increased the price without any notice. “I used to smoke shisha and the tobacco I use is now costlier by 30 to 40 percent. They did this in the pretext of the Ministry increasing prices, but we know that the law is not yet come into force,” a Shisha smoker Firas said.

A grocery shop owner in Al Sadd agreed that many shop keepers are reluctant to sell their stocks because everyone is looking for profit. “Smokers are looking for their interest and we are looking after ours.”

Most of the people and healthcare professionals have welcomed the move by the Ministry to impose 100 percent tax on tobacco products as this will deter many from using these health injurious products.

Source: https://www.thepeninsulaqatar....