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Tobacco Free Jordan joins calls against proposed reduction in cigarette prices

By Khetam Malkawi - Dec 15,2012 - Last updated at Dec 15,2012

AMMAN — Calls rejecting a proposed reduction in the price of locally manufactured cigarettes continue with the Tobacco Free Jordan association launching a campaign against the move.

The association organised a sit-in outside the Lower House of Parliament on Saturday to express their rejection of “any attempt to reduce tobacco prices”, according to Zeina Shahzada, a member of the group.

“Any reduction in tobacco prices will lead to an increase in the number of smokers in Jordan,” Shahzada told The Jordan Times on Saturday, noting that the association is partnering with the King Hussein Cancer Centre (KHCC) to organise awareness campaigns against smoking.

She added that Tobacco Free Jordan, which was established last year, is also using social media tools to advocate the cause.

“Smoking prevalence in the country is very alarming… reducing prices will make cigarettes more affordable for children as well,” Shahzada said.

Earlier this month, local tobacco companies informed the Income and Sales Tax Department that they plan to reduce the prices of their products in a bid to compete with smuggled cigarettes, which they say have negatively impacted the industry.

The Ministry of Health and the KHCC rejected the move and are currently lobbying decision makers not to endorse the proposal.

“This request may seem innocent if painted in this light, but we at the KHCC would like to stress that such proposals emanate from tobacco companies’ policies to seek high profits at the expense of health,” Firas Hawari, head of the KHCC cancer control office, said in statement sent to The Jordan Times last week.

“It is medically known that difficult political, social and economic conditions, in addition to the increase in tension and stress, are some of the main reasons that drive a person into consuming highly addictive drugs, particularly tobacco,” Hawari added.

He noted that the current circumstances are “an opportunity” for these companies to achieve great profits and increase their sales at the expense of citizens and the “homeland’s interests”.

In a former statement, Malek Habashneh, director of the health ministry’s awareness department also said a drop in cigarette prices will encourage children to take up the habit as it will become affordable for them.

According to the 2007 Global Youth Tobacco Survey, 14 per cent of school students aged between 13 and 15 in the Kingdom smoke cigarettes, while 22 per cent smoke argileh.

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