Thursday,21 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1402, (19 - 25 July 2018)
Thursday,21 February, 2019
Issue 1402, (19 - 25 July 2018)

Ahram Weekly

More expensive smoking

Al-Ahram Weekly

TO SMOKE or not to smoke is as contentious an issue in Egypt as anywhere else. While opponents denounce smokers as “burning away their money”, supporters think of it as a way of puffing away their stress. Meanwhile, the government looks at cigarettes as a source of revenue by charging a sin tax on their consumption.

It hopes to come out the winner either by deterring people from smoking and thus avoiding the health hazards that come with it or by collecting more revenue from those who choose to continue smoking. Last Thursday it began collecting new levies on cigarettes designed to go towards funding Egypt’s new comprehensive health insurance system. The taxes were not a surprise, however, as they had already been stipulated by a law in January governing the new system.

According to the Ministry of Finance, the new levies on cigarettes are expected to rake in LE4 billion, which will be channelled to the health insurance system. The health sector also saw an increase in its financial allocations during the current fiscal year, which began on 1 July, to reach LE80.7 billion compared to LE69.5 billion last year, according to the ministry.

The price of cigarettes in Egypt ranges from between LE15.5 (around $0.85) to LE40 (around $2.2) per packet. Over the past four years, cigarettes have been subject to several tax hikes causing their prices to increase in line with policies promoted by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to the WHO, Egypt is one of 15 countries worldwide having a heavy burden of tobacco-related ill health. Its 2013 standardised estimate of smoking prevalence showed that 40.5 per cent of men, 0.3 per cent of women, and 20.3 per cent of Egypt’s population overall are daily tobacco smokers.

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