AMMAN — A proposal by local tobacco companies to reduce cigarette prices by 15 per cent will affect the health ministry’s efforts to reduce smoking in the Kingdom, a ministry official said on Monday.

“We will write to the finance minister to reject this proposal as it will destroy our efforts,” Malek Habashneh, director of the health ministry’s awareness department, told The Jordan Times.

Habashneh explained that 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.

Local tobacco companies have informed the Income and Sales Tax Department that they plan to reduce the prices of cigarettes in a bid to compete with smuggled cigarettes, a government source told The Jordan Times on Sunday.

The official, who preferred to remain unnamed, said that smuggled cigarettes, mainly from Syria, have negatively impacted the industry.

The Kingdom’s seven tobacco manufacturing firms have been complaining that smuggled cigarettes threaten their businesses.

According to Habashneh, if the government approves this proposal, Jordan’s obligation to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) will be affected.

“Violating the obligations means that we will not receive WHO support for our awareness campaigns on the risks of smoking,” he pointed out.

Habashneh noted that Jordan was the second country in the region to endorse the convention after Qatar.

Obligations to the FCTC include endorsing a national law that combats smoking, carrying out studies on tobacco prevalence and placing health warnings on cigarette packets, he added.