Right steps by UAE to enhance public health - GulfToday

Right steps by UAE to enhance public health


All electronic smoking devices are proposed to be taxed 100 per cent.

The UAE Cabinet’s decision to expand the list of excise taxable products to include sweetened beverages, sugary drinks and electronic smoking devices, starting Jan.1, 2020, is a step in the right direction that will certainly modify consumers’ behaviour and help reduce consumption of unhealthy goods.

As the Cabinet General Secretariat explained in a statement, the decision comes to support the UAE government’s efforts to enhance public health and prevent chronic diseases directly linked to sugar and tobacco consumption.

It is good that the manufacturers now have to clearly identify the sugar content in order for consumers to make sensible healthy choices.

People will surely understand and appreciate that a tax of 50 per cent to be levied on any product with added sugar or other sweeteners, whether in form of a beverage, liquid, concentrate, powders, extracts or any product that may be converted into a drink, is for their own good, so that they remain fit.

The authorities have been taking various steps aimed at reducing the consumption of harmful products that put the health of people and environment at risk.

The proposed tax of 100 per cent to be levied on electronic smoking devices, whether or not they contain nicotine or tobacco, as well as the liquids used in electronic smoking devices, thus makes perfect sense.

Also, the Federal Tax Authority, FTA, recently declared that Waterpipe tobacco — known in Arabic as ‘Mu’assel’ — and electrically heated cigarettes will also fall under ‘Marking Tobacco and Tobacco Products Scheme’ as part of the second phase effective from  Nov.1, 2019.

“Digital Tax Stamps” will be made available for purchase by producers and importers of waterpipe tobacco and electrically heated cigarettes, the Authority revealed, as it held its second awareness workshop in Dubai to introduce them to the scheme’s procedures and objectives, as well as the timeline for the second phase.

The Arab peninsula is known to have one of the highest prevalence rates of diabetes and obesity worldwide according to international reports, and disturbingly, the rates are continuing to rise.

New findings published last month revealed a high prevalence of cardiometabolic risk factors such as obesity and diabetes in men under 30 in the UAE.

One of the largest UAE population studies investigating over 33,000 Emirati men between the ages of 18 and 29 led by Professor Ashraf Hasan Humaidan Alzaabi from Zayed Military Hospital in Abu Dhabi, found elevated levels of triglycerides and cholesterol, impaired fasting glucose and hypertension.

It is thought these increases in prevalence have developed due to unhealthy dietary changes and sedentary lifestyles common to the region, although there are possible hereditary factors that could influence outcomes.

Results from this cross-sectional analysis of male nationals demonstrated half of the study subjects were overweight or obese at age 18, and this rose drastically so that by the age of 29 only 29 per cent were in the normal BMI range.

There was also a high prevalence of diabetes (4.7 per cent) and 41 per cent of subjects had impaired fasting blood glucose – an indicator for prediabetes.

The UAE began applying excise tax on selected goods that are harmful to public health in October 2017.

The results are positive, as for example, the value of Abu Dhabi’s trade in raw tobacco and manufactured tobacco products declined sharply in 2018 compared to 2017.

The authorities are doing their best to encourage healthy living. Individuals, on their part, would do well to choose healthy options.

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