|Egypt’s new tax raises the price of cigarettes by as much as 40 percent and doubles the price of tobacco used in pipes. (Amr Nabil/Associated Press)|
Egyptian smokers hit hard with new tax
CAIRO — Egyptian smokers saw prices surge yesterday by as much as 100 percent as the government slapped new taxes on tobacco products in a bid to curb smoking and raise money for public health programs in the Arab world’s most populous nation.
Part of a law passed in May but being implemented only now, the taxes raise the price of cigarettes by as much as 40 percent, while the tobacco used in Egypt’s ubiquitous water pipes, known locally as shisha, now costs twice as much.
The law is part of government efforts to curb smoking, which many Egyptians maintain is one of the few remaining affordable pleasures in a country where rising prices have sparked protests over the past few months.
Government officials say the move is needed to convince Egypt’s smokers to kick the habit. World Health Organization figures show the number of smokers in the country has grown twice as fast as the population over the past 30 years.
WHO figures show that about 40 percent of men in Egypt use some form of tobacco, and 82 percent of daily cigarette smokers consume between 16 and 20 cigarettes per day.
“Some people will be angry for some time, but I think it will decrease the consumption of tobacco,’’ said Sahar Labib, the director of the Ministry of Health’s tobacco department.