Govt lawmaker urges cigarette price hike to cut down smoking

PPM parliament majority leader and Villimale MP Ahmed Nihan.

PPM parliament majority leader and Villimale MP Ahmed Nihan.

The price of a single cigarette pack must be raised to over MVR 100 (USD 6.50), declared Villimale MP Ahmed Nihan during Tuesday’s parliament sitting as he spoke in favour of the government lobbied bill to hike the import duty of cigarettes, soft drinks and energy drinks.

The amendments submitted to the Export Import Act seek to charge MVR 4.60 from soft drinks and energy drinks, and increase the duty of cigarettes from MVR 1.25 to MVR 2.

Stressing the dangers posed to general health by tobacco products, ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM)’s parliament majority leader MP Nihan declared that the government of incumbent President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom prioritises the health of the people more than any previous administration had.

“It is a duty of the government to raise awareness among citizens and guide them away from such acts, both for the sake of their health,” said the lawmaker, who had quit smoking earlier after a dangerous health condition.

He noted that countries of Asia and Europe sell cigarette packs at a rate of USD 10 (MVR 154). Should the proposed amendment be approved, the price of cigarette packs in the Maldives will increase to MVR 92.

“It still falls USD 4 (MVR 61) short. I believe that each cigarette stick should be sold for MVR 4 (USD 0.26),” said Nihan, declaring that such measures are necessary to minimise smoking in the island nation, and urged to forward the amendments to the parliamentary economic committee for further review.

“I am prepared to vote for MVR 100 or MVR 200 for a cigarette pack.”

Nihan added that the government’s aim is not to merely charge more taxes as he urged everyone to take care of their health.

The bill was submitted to the parliament by member of government coalition Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) and lawmaker of Kudahuvadhoo constituency Ahmed Amir,

Increasing the import duties of soft drinks, energy drinks and cigarettes was included in this year’s state budget as part of the government’s plans to increase state revenue. However, these amendments to the Export Import Act seek higher taxes than what is specified in the budget.

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