Ultimatum to Tobacco Retailers

Ultimatum to Tobacco RetailersUltimatum to Tobacco Retailers

All tobacco retailers have been instructed to apply within two weeks for permits by referring to the official website of the National Tobacco Planning and Supervision Center, and as per the new rules, only grocery stores and supermarkets with permits will be allowed to sell cigarettes.

Cigarette and hookah sellers who fail to produce permits after June 21 will be banned from the business, warned Ali Asghar Ramzi, head of the center.

Speaking at the meeting of Iran's Tobacco Control Headquarters on Sunday, the official pointed to the lack of order and discipline in the tobacco retail industry lamenting that all shops and kiosks freely sell the products.

"According to the new rules, only grocery stores and supermarkets with a permit will be allowed to sell cigarettes," Ramzi stressed.

The meeting was held under the auspices of the Health Ministry. The headquarters comprises representatives from various bodies including the ministries of culture, education and industries, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, the Judiciary, Tehran Municipality, Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, the Law Enforcement Forces and the Goods and Foreign Exchange Anti-Smuggling Headquarters.

However, representatives from several bodies including the IRIB, the Judiciary and the Ministry of Culture were conspicuous by their absence, and several others were represented by low-ranking officials, showing apathy to the much-debated issue of curbing tobacco use.   

To obtain and extend the certificate, businesses must ensure that their premises are located at least 100 meters away from schools and educational centers; smuggled products and single cigarettes are not sold; and tobacco is not offered to underage persons, Ramzi said, IRNA reported.

The official cautioned that even in the case of a single violation, tobacco businesses will be shut down and no permits will be reissued.

  Barcoding and Higher Taxes

Another measure by the Ministry of Industries to combat the use of tobacco is tracking the products. The plan involves a 17 or 18 digit barcode on the package showing the type of cigarette and the production date. "In this way, cigarettes can be tracked even in retail stores," said Ramzi.  

Tobacco taxes have increased by 120% so far and will rise by a modest amount this calendar year (began March 20) as studies by the Ministry of Industries have shown that increasing taxes on cigarettes by over 30% of its cost price, will only encourage smuggling of the product, while dismissing the option (increasing taxes) as an effective measure to control smoking.

The Goods and Foreign Exchange Anti-Smuggling Headquarters has also taken new measures towards tobacco control.

"Homogenizing cigarette packages and banning the import of 28 brands are among the measures that the headquarters will undertake this year," said Abbas Nakhaei, a senior official.

Advertisements are among the major reasons that contribute to smoking, especially among the youth. "Another plan is to ultimately stop tobacco advertising in the country," he said.

The official, however, maintained that the measures will not produce the desired results unless economic, cultural and social issues, particularly in smaller cities and towns are addressed.

"In villages and small towns where unemployment is a common problem and entertainment facilities are lacking, the tendency towards smoking will remain a problem in spite of all deterrent measures," he warned.