Taxes on tobacco products and aerated drinks will go up in Qatar very soon, revealed Dr Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad al-Thani, director of Public Health at Ministry of Public Health.

“There is a plan accepted by the Ministry of Finance to raise the taxes on tobacco to the same levels as in the neighbouring countries. Qatar is waiting for the right time to implement it and it can happen any time soon,” he told Gulf Times.

The top official was replying to a question during a press conference on Sunday to announce the results of the Global Youth Tobacco Survey 2018.

“The final decision on the implementation will be taken by the Cabinet and the Ministry of Finance. They will decide on the timing and calculate the taxes depending on the prevailing circumstances,” continued Sheikh Mohamed.

The official also said that Shisha smoking also is becoming hard for the youth to access. “The present regulation in Qatar is that any shisha joint should be at least 1,000m away from schools. It is becoming hard to get a license for a shisha joint. As for the hotels, shisha smoking is available only in five-stars and they have to meet several conditions that MoPH has set up,” highlighted Sheikh Mohamed.

Another official at MoPH said that those who sell tobacco products to people below the age of 18 will have to go through the judicial process.

‘Earlier, fine was given on the spot to those who violate this rule but it has changed now. The violators now have to go through the judicial system and face legal action. The hotline to inform about violators works for 24 hours and it goes directly to the inspection team. Usually we have the team in the field,” said Dr Amani Elkhatim- public health specialist- Non Communicable Diseases Section at MoPH.

“We are working hard to lower the prevalence of smoking in the country. We are looking for a country where 90% of the population is not smoking. Once the tax is increased, it will become harder for the youth to get the products and with more inspections, the shops will be under steady surveillance,” added Elkhatim.

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