Smoking rate soars as Yemen war drags on

Smoking rate soars as Yemen war drags on
Shops and manufacturers report 50 percent rise in consumption since war began in March, despite prices doubling due to profiteering.
2 min read
09 Jun, 2015
Yemenis are some of the heaviest smokers in the Arab world (Getty)
Yemeni consumption of cigarettes has soared since the start of the Arab coalition airstrikes against the Houthis on 26 March despite prices doubling, according to a report in al-Araby al-Jadeed's Arabic edition.

Some sellers and manufacturers estimate consumption has risen by 50 percent since.

The cigarette market experienced severe shortages in the first two weeks of the war as traders hoarded stocks when imports stopped, then reintroduced them to the market at higher prices.

One well-known western brand doubled in price to 600 Riyals ($2.80) a packet. Prices of other western brands also rose degrees, said Rabih Mohammad, who owns a tobacconist in Sanaa.

A government worker, Mohammad Khalid, told al-Araby: "Although I continue to receive a salary, the organisation that I work for has canceled all incentives and bonuses. Only the basic salary remains. Despite my low-income, I am now smoking more."

"I used to smoke one packet a day, but now I smoke up to two, even though the price has doubled," he said.

He often cannot work and now spends his afternoons chewing qat and smoking with friends.

Going up in smoke

The price of locally manufactured cigarettes has also risen, sometimes doubling to about $2.30 a packet.

Yemen manufactures cigarettes in three factories, one of which is state-owned. One private factory in Aden has closed due to the war.

Mohammad al-Khawlani, the director of Yemen's National Programme for Combating Smoking said its efforts to cut smoking rates were being hurt by an increase in smuggling, particularly during wartime.

Khawlani told al-Araby that the government had increased the price of most local brands to discourage smokers but smuggling had undermined those efforts. 

Smoking rates in Yemen are among the highest in the world. A study by the World Health Organisation showed that Yemenis are the second-heaviest smokers in the Arab world, second to Tunisia.

According to the National Programme for Combating Smoking, there are 3.4 million smokers in the country. One in three women and four out of five men smoke, according to government figures.

Almost a third of smokers are aged between 17 and 24, while one percent of children aged between 13 and 15 smoke and 40 percent are exposed to second-hand smoke.

Sections of this article were translated from the original Arabic.