Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Breaking news: Are cigarettes being pulled off (or flying off) Baqala shelves in Abu Dhabi ahead of the big tax hike?

This guy posting on Abu Dhabi Q&A, the endlessly entertaining Facebook page, seems to think so. 

"So no more selling cigarettes in baqala near to my place as municipality told them to remove all cigarettes from the shelves," he writes. "Is this happening all over Abu Dhabi?"
I'd go across the street to my local to confirm now, but I'm wearing slippers, a sweatshirt and short shorts and it's still very hot out. I predict The National will very soon be doing a story on this, because I'm mildly psychic, so when they do a) we'll know for sure and b) I'll link to it.

As so often happens on public forums, the Abu Dhabi Q&A post yielded 65 comments but no answers to this poster's plea. Most people pointed out that smoking is disgusting, while others linked to news stories about the pending 100% jump in price, due October 1.

That's when the price of cigarettes in the UAE will jump from Dh11 to Dh22 as part of an aggressive new tax on tobacco and sugar-laden drinks. People from the West, of course, will find this a very mild price and probably still take cartons back home to their coughing families, where packs are costing upwards of Dh40. 

On the anecdotal front, I have heard the pending tax may have prompted some sort of situation where Baqalas have to remove all their cigarettes in preparation for charging more. Or perhaps paranoid smokers are just madly stocking up and emptying shelves in the process.

A friend told me last night that when she bought her last packs on Friday (Vogue slims) her Baqala staffer said one local man bought 100 cartons, which seems like a bit of a tall tale but then again, people really like their cigarettes in the Middle East. 

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