Feature: Egyptian smokers find hard to quit despite tobacco prices hike
Sunday, July 04, 2021 3:37 PM

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CAIRO, Jul. 4, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency) -- Standing in front of local and imported boxes of cigarettes in his shop near a bus station in Shubra El-khiema, Adel said Egyptians would not stop smoking even with the prices hikes.

"People will buy cigarettes no matter how high their prices will be," Adel said.

In May, Egypt's legislature approved a move to impose a new 40 percent price tax on imported cigarettes, excluding locally produced, popular cigarettes. Other kinds of tobacco products underwent a 100 percent tax.

According to a survey conducted by Egypt's Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization, about 40 percent of Egyptian adults aged between 25 and 46 were smokers. The country has about 13 million smokers out of its 80 million population.

The Egyptian government has been exerting strenuous efforts in cooperation with non-governmental organizations to curb smoking, a disconcerting habit spreading widely in the most populous Arab country.

"My sales dropped a little, but I know it will be raised again in the next few days," said Adel, adding that it happened when the government raised the prices before.

"The people then stopped buying cigarettes for a few days and restarted smoking again," said 19-year-old Mohammed Saeed, another shop owner in Cairo and also a heavy smoker.

However, for shop owners, the move has already affected their income.

"I used to sell about 100 boxes of local cigarettes and about 45 of imported ones a day, but sales dropped to 70 and 25 respectively now," Adel said.

The higher costs of smoking are expected to prompt a lot of Egyptians to reduce smoking or even quit it. Yet it is not all that easy to get rid of such a habit.

"There is a man who buys three boxes of imported cigarettes every day," said Mohammed, adding this meant he is spending about 1000 Egyptian pounds (178 U.S. dollars) a month on smoking only.

"Smokers express their anger when they know the new prices but they still buy them at last," said Adel.

The Egyptian government tried to persuade smokers to quit but generally in vain. The most conspicuous measure is to compel tobacco manufacturers and importers to print warnings on their products, such as photos that show the harm of smoking to lives.

"I will not quit smoking, I will buy cigarettes even for 1000 Egyptian pounds a box," said Esmael, a 34-year-old teacher.

"I tried to quit, but I failed," said an old man while asking Adel for a box of cigarettes.

Smoking in Egypt spreads quickly among male adults. According to the Egyptian Health Ministry, smoking kills 37,000 people in the country each year.

"Life is so hard, so I have to smoke," added anther buyer.

In June 2007, the Egyptian parliament sanctioned a law banning smoking at workplaces, public transportation vehicles, health centers and schools.

Ninety percent of Egyptians believe that smoking is a major cause of some life-threatening diseases like asthma, lung cancer and birth defects, according to the survey results.

A survey published by Egypt's Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics early this year showed that 41 percent of Egyptian smokers have tried to give up, but only 18 percent of them succeed.

Last month, Egypt planed to make Alexandria its first smoking- free city, hoping it will set an example of anti-smoking campaign.



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