By: Joseph Benny

MUSCAT: The Public Authority for Consumer Protection’s (PACP) go-ahead for a price hike on certain cigarette brands could help in the government’s anti-tobacco drive, many feel.

Enhance, a company which distributes Dunhill, Kent and Vogue brands in Oman announced a ten per cent hike with effect from February 1.

Health experts feel that this price rise, however nominal, could lead to many smokers smoke less and perhaps, gradually kick the habit.

“We have increased the prices of cigarettes distributed by our company in Oman with effect from February 1. Our decision follows the necessary green signal from concerned government agencies, including PACP,” a senior executive of Enhance told Muscat Daily.

Dr Jawad al Lawati, senior consultant at the Ministry of Health (MoH), who has been actively involved in the ministry’s anti-tobacco campaign, said the price rise is expected to affect demand and many smokers would think twice before buying cigarettes.

It is also expected to impact young smokers who have limited or controlled access to money. “It’s not always possible to keep a watch on what youngsters are doing. Often at an impressionable age, they face the risk of getting into wrong habits like smoking just because their peers do. This hike may at least keep those off smoking whose parents keep a tab on pocket money,” said an expatriate not wanting to be named. He hoped that the tax on tobacco products is hiked, too.

However, not all think the hike will be much of a deterrent for heavy smokers. “I still smoke like I did before the price rise,” said a smoker requesting anonymity. He said that concrete and holistic measures by the government, and not just price rise, will help people quit tobacco.

Khimji Ramdas, another major cigarette distributor in Oman with brands like Marlboro, Parliament, Virginia Slims and Red and White had last year effected a ten per cent hike on the cigarette brands it distributes.

Traders say the hike does not allow them to make any profit on cigarettes sold loose. “Two cigarettes are still being sold at 100bz even after the hike. It is hitting business,” said Mohammed Ijhar, a tobacco trader in Ruwi.