Maldives increased the import duty on cigarettes by 200 per cent on 1 December. The duty on other tobacco products rose 150 per cent.
The increase will be critical in reducing tobacco use and discouraging uptake of the tobacco habit among young people in the South Asian island nation, said Mr. Hassan Mohammed, Head of the Tobacco Control Unit in the Maldivian Ministry of Health.
According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey of 2007, nearly 6 per cent of school-going children 13-15 years old in the Maldives used tobacco in some form. Another 6.7 per cent were likely to initiate smoking in the next year.
Even before the measure came into effect, importers had raised the prices for all types of cigarettes. The prices for Camel and Marlboro, the most popular brands in the country, were formerly MVR 20 and MVR 25 respectively. (1 USD is about 15 MVR). These have now been raised to MVR 38 and MVR 45 respectively.
According to the Maldives Customs Service, 2010, the country imports all its tobacco: cigarettes worth a value of MVR 120 million annually and other tobacco products worth MVR 4 million annually. In 2010 alone, this small island nation of around 360,000 people imported over 346 million cigarettes.
The Government says additional measures in the pipeline, when implemented, would further increase the price of tobacco products. These include the proposed revision in 2012 of the prevailing goods and services tax (GST) from 3.5 per cent to 6 per cent, and packaging and labelling requirements – including pictorial health warnings – that are expected to come into force in 2012.