Dubai: The Ministry of Health said it will go ahead with its plans to make smoking more difficult and costlier in spite of what one senior official described as a worldwide interference by the tobacco industry in public health policies.
Dr Wedad Al Maidour, head of the anti-tobacco control committee at the ministry, accused "big tobacco' of putting up a tough fight against any anti-smoking legislation.
She, however, said that it could not stop the measures taken by the UAE authorities, including the display of graphic pictures on cigarette packs warning against smoking which will be made mandatory in the UAE from August this year.
The pictures will show a child suffering from second-hand or passive smoking, a pregnant woman, and a snake coiled around the packet.
Dr Wedad said the graphic pictures could help deter new smokers from taking up the habit and reduce the number of smokers. She said the graphics showing the dangers of smoking would also be made mandatory on shisha pipes and on packets of tobacco.
Dr Wedad said a group of GCC experts will meet soon in Egypt to chalk out plans on how to increase taxes on tobacco products.
"There are plans to double the tax on tobacco products but various departments are not able to come to a consensus on how it should be done as there is huge revenue from tobacco involved," Dr Wedad said.
She said the ministry was planning to follow in the footsteps of Australia in making it compulsory for tobacco manufacturers to sell cigarettes in plain white, packets.
"The tobacco industry is presently fighting the Australian government against the plain packets law in the courts," she said.
Second-hand smoke is a big killer and many smokers are unaware that even the lingering nicotine in their clothes is dangerous for children. Many spouses of smokers also suffer from various smoking-related diseases without even smoking. Smoking is a major cause of cardiovascular disease.