The UAE Paradox: Stricter Tobacco Control Policies,
But A Stronger Tobacco Industry

Alan Blum, MD (ablum@ua.edu)
Professor and Gerald Leon Wallace, MD, Endowed Chair in Family Medicine

The University of Alabama Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society (csts.ua.edu)



Although the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become one of the most progressive nations in the world in implementing policies to counter cigarette smoking, shisha pipes, and the promotion of tobacco products, the number of tobacco-related businesses in the UAE, including both multinational and regional corporations, has increased. And although great strides have been made in introducing far-reaching anti-tobacco laws, the level of tobacco use by young people in the UAE has been described by health officials as shocking (more than 20% of boys ages 13 to 15 smoke), and the degree of circumvention and pushback remains to be seen.

Intervention or response:

In order to learn how tobacco-related companies in the UAE are regarded within the tobacco industry itself, a literature review was conducted of the tobacco industry trade press over a 15-year period. More than 100 issues of two journals to which the author subscribes (Tobacco Reporter and Tobacco International) were reviewed, and all articles and advertisements related to tobacco manufacturers, distributors, importers, duty-free shops, and suppliers of the tobacco industry with offices in the UAE were identified.

Results and lessons learnt:

A list of more than a dozen tobacco-related companies in the UAE and the nature of their business has been compiled and will be discussed. A summary of articles in the public health literature about tobacco control efforts in the UAE will also be presented. Conclusions and key recommendations: While the paradox of a growing tobacco-related business sector in the UAE in the face of stepped-up tobacco control policies doubtless relates principally to the economic strength of the nation and its rising role as one of the world’s leading ports and international business centers, it is essential for those involved in tobacco control to be knowledgeable about, and to be prepared to address, the tobacco-related enterprises in their nation. This increasing business sector–a source of employment and revenue–represents an ever-present economic and political challenge to efforts to discourage tobacco consumption, to restrict tobacco use in public places, and to eliminate the promotion of tobacco products.

This brief report about the UAE National Anti-Tobacco Law is one of a relative handful of health-related articles in the tobacco trade press in the past decade.

A More Visible Presence

This brief report about the UAE National Anti-Tobacco Law is one of a relative handful of health-related articles in the tobacco trade press in the past decade.

Premium Tobacco, one of the foremost international tobacco importing and exporting companies, opened a major new office in Jumeirah Lake Towers in 2013.

In November 2013 the Essentra Filter Products factory opened in the Jebel Ali Free Zone 20 miles from downtown Dubai with a capacity to manufacture 3 billion cigarette filters in addition to electronic cigarette filters and other components of e-cigarettes. Essentra is headquartered in the United Kingdom. The Dubai production facility is one of 42 that the company operates in 32 countries

Dubai Duty Free is one of the world’s leading retail sellers of cigarettes in airports and online.

W.H.O: UAE Tobacco Demographics

• Adolescent Males 13-15 21.3%
• Adolescent Females 13-15 9.0%
• Adult Males >15 28.1 %
• Adult Females >15 2.4%
• Adult Population Prevalence: 19.5%

• Arab expatriate men: 31.4%
• Other expatriate men: 26.5%
• National men: 12.9%
• Other expatriate women: 10.7%
• Arab expatriate women: 5.6%
• National women: 0.7%

Hookah, Medwakh, Dokha

Hookah, Medwakh, Dokha


• Suishu
• Goza
• Kalyan
• Ghelyoon
• Hookah
• Arghileh
• Hubble-bubble

DOKHA (“dizziness”)

• Barid (cold)
• Daffi (warm)
• Har (hot)


• Arab expatriate men  10.2%
• National men 5.8%


• National men  16.1%
• Arab expatriate men 3.5%
• Other expatriate men 3.5%

Recent News Items From Tobacco Reporter And Other Tobacco Industry Publications:

March 25, 2014: The UAE Ministry of Health has rejected requests from shop owners for mission to sell e-cigarettes and electronic shisha pipes.

January 21, 2014: People breaking the UAE’s new anti-tobacco law now face the risk of being fined. Enforcement agencies across the emirates are expected to target people smoking in cars containing children under 12 and stores selling cigarettes to minors.

November 27, 2013: Many shisha cafes in Abu Dhabi face closure because of harsh fines to be imposed under the new anti-tobacco regulations

November 6, 2013: Levels of tobacco use by young people in the UAE were described as shocking in a new study that found more than one in five boys aged 13 to 15 smokes.

September 13, 2013: Philip Morris International, maker of Marlboro and L & M (the world’s second largest cigarette brand portfolio), acquires 49% of the UAE-based Arab Investors TA (AITA) for $625 million—securing an almost 25% economic interest in The Societe des Tabacs Algero-Emiratie (STAEM) and boosting Philip Morris’ earning potential In Algeria.

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