Price hike won’t stop Bahrain’s smokers

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Small and medium businesses continue to suffer as Ministry of Health (MoH) takes a strong stand on its cigarette license fee hike.

MoH’s hike in the fees for selling cigarettes from BD25 for small and BD50 for medium enterprises to BD300 and BD500 respectively has made cold stores and Sheesha coffee-shops in the Kingdom struggle to make ends meet.

Earlier, Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) had taken up their cause as per the request of Bahrain Malayalee Business Forum and urged relevant authorities to devise more suitable categories of fees for small and medium business owners. However, a month later, the Ministry remains adamant about its
decision.

MoH’s spokesperson said: “The fees applied on cigarettes are not an exclusive practice. All GCC countries apply similar fees for selling tobacco products and some of them are higher than the ones set in the Kingdom.”

The spokesperson also explained that the special fee applied on manufacturers and distributors of all tobacco products was in line with the ‘Tobacco Control Framework’ of Bahrain which was ratified in 2007 and emphasised on the health benefits of such a hike.

She added: “Tobacco is a lethal product with deadly health consequences. Hence, fees should be applied to help the government in treating health issues related to tobacco. The Ministry is certain that increasing the product’s price will consequently reduce consumption among the public, especially those who are under the age of 18.”

The main selling point for cold-stores in the Kingdom is usually their snacks, cigarettes and dairy products. However, the hefty hike in the fees of one of their main products has added to the costs of separate licenses and renewal processes, thus making them unable to earn profits, pay employees and look after electricity and water bills.

“Our cigarette racks have been emptier for the past couple of months. But the hike is not stopping smokers as those who wish to smoke can access it from bigger supermarkets. The only people affected by such rules are small businesses like us who are not able to provide a product, despite there being a demand for it,” said one of the cold-store owners in Bahrain.

Reflecting upon their tough situation he added: “We do not know where we can complain about our issues next and are feeling quite helpless. If this continues, it may soon lead to a closure of many cold-stores in Bahrain.”

The cigarette license fee hike took effect since mid-2016 and is also supported by the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. (source credit – DT News)

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