Dubai: A proposal to enforce plain packaging of cigarettes and double the price of tobacco within two years has been made, a health ministry official said.
“The law is expected to be enforced throughout the GCC by 2016,” said Dr Wedad Al Maidour, head of the National Tobacco Control at the Ministry of Health.
Smoking has increased rates of lung cancer, respiratory disease and heart disease in the GCC, according to medical specialists.
Dr Wedad said it was also proposed that the warning on cigarette packs should be increased to cover 70 per cent of the pack; at present it takes up half of the pack.
When Australia recently introduced plain packaging there was a spike in calls to the Help Quit line.
In the UK legislators will ban branded packaging of cigarettes next year. Public health experts campaigned for years to ensure that cigarette packs are stripped of their colourful packaging. Research shows that children are not drawn to smoking when they are not lured by the packaging.
The anti-tobacco chief also appealed to governments to help raise the price of tobacco. Cigarettes and tobacco are very cheap in the GCC where a pack of 20 costs just Dh7. In comparison a pack costs £8 (Dh48) in the UK, where tax on tobacco is regularly increased.
“Raising tax is very effective to stop children smoking,” Dr Wedad said.
She said a Global Youth Tobacco survey was carried out across the UAE last year and showed good and bad news. Preliminary data shows that among the 4,000 pupils questioned, tobacco use among regular smokers has reduced by 16 per cent, and cigarette smoking from nine per cent to six per cent.
The bad news, however, is that the number of children thinking of smoking has shot up to 30 per cent.
“More efforts are needed to educate the youth, raise awareness and enforce the Federal Tobacco Anti-Tobacco Law to protect the next generation,” she said.
The Federal Law goes into effect on January 21. Among the laws is a ban on selling tobacco in shops near schools and heavy fines for those smoking in a vehicle with a child.