Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 9 December 2019

UAE's expanded 'sin tax' comes in with sugary drinks, vapes and regular cigarettes rising in price

Minimum pricing for tobacco cigarettes means a pack cannot be sold for less than Dh8

There are estimated to be 1.1 million smokers in the UAE. Minimum pricing of Dh8 per pack is expected to hit the lower end of the cigarette market. Stephan Geyer
There are estimated to be 1.1 million smokers in the UAE. Minimum pricing of Dh8 per pack is expected to hit the lower end of the cigarette market. Stephan Geyer

Residents and visitors to the UAE will pay more for sugary drinks, vaping devices and cigarettes from Sunday.

The 50 per cent tax on non-fizzy drinks 100 per cent levy on e-cigarettes and vaping liquid is aimed at improving the nation's health.

The country has also introduced minimum pricing for regular cigarettes.

A cigarette cannot be sold for less than 40 fils, meaning a pack of 20 must cost at least Dh8. Previously, smokers could buy a pack for as little as Dh3 in some stores.

First announced by the UAE Cabinet in August, shops across the country began to apply the new pricing strategy on Sunday.

Water pipe tobacco for shisha will now carry a minimum 10 fils excise charge on every gram, with a starting retail price of at least Dh100 per kilo.

The price tag of non-fizzy soft drinks with added sugar or sweeteners has also increased. For instance, AriZona Iced Tea, which contains about 16 teaspoons of sugar per 680ml can, costs about Dh9 on average, depending on the retailer.

Under the new guidelines, the list of taxable sweetened drinks includes those that are "ready-to-consume or that come in the form of concentrates, powders or gels", according to the FTA.

The products have been added to a list of items that were subject to the original 'sin tax', which first came into effect in October 2017 and included tobacco and tobacco products, energy drinks, and carbonated beverages.

In a move to “build a healthy community by curbing the consumption of harmful products”, Khalid Al Bustani, director general of the FTA, said the new pricing rules could help put an end to low quality tobacco products being sold in the country.

“Implementing the new decision [will help to] mitigate damages and costs incurred while fighting diseases that result from consuming these products.”

In a series of tweets in August, the UAE Government Communication Office announced that it was expanding the list of excise taxable products just months after the UAE legalised the sale of e-cigarettes in mid-April.

Last week, a YouGov poll showed that people over 25 were more supportive of the UAE’s expanded tax on sugar.

Of the 1,006 participants surveyed, 56 per cent of people over 25 backed the decision to hit non-fizzy sugary drinks with a 50 per cent levy, compared with 47 per cent of people aged 18 to 24.

The pollster also found stronger support from wealthier residents.

Updated: December 1, 2019 10:49 AM

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