Smoking: 2,379 Cigarettes Per Capita in Lebanon

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While demand for nicotine was skyrocketing in Lebanon, the world was witnessing a decline in cigarette consumption by 11.7 percent as a result of increased awareness about the risks. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

By: Hassan Chakrani

Published Monday, June 10, 2013

Today, the annual average cigarette consumption rate in Lebanon is 119 packs per person, or about ten cigarette packs per month. The United Kingdom-based ERC consulting group estimates that the average cigarette consumption rate was 2,379 cigarettes per capita in 2012, which is nearly three times the global average.

The per capita cigarette consumption rate in Lebanon rose by a striking 475 percent between 1990 and 2012. This is the second highest increase recorded globally, topped only by Burma, where cigarette consumption rose by 675 percent during that same period.

While demand for nicotine was skyrocketing in Lebanon, the world was witnessing a decline in cigarette consumption by 11.7 percent as a result of increased awareness about the risks.

Since the end of last year, there has been a heated debate in Lebanon about the law that bans smoking in enclosed public places. Some saw the law as frivolous in a society that has more pressing needs. It was also criticized by the owners of tourist establishments who viewed the law as a deterrent to tourists.

However, a recent study by the American University of Beirut showed that business at tourist establishments, like restaurants and nightclubs, was not adversely affected by the smoking ban. Contrary to the alarmist warnings of some, these establishments saw revenues increase by at least three percent during the first four months of the law’s enactment, beginning in September 2012.

Kuwait also has a high cigarette consumption rate at 1,774 cigarettes per capita, followed by Vietnam at 1,084 cigarettes. Globally, Serbia comes in first place in terms of the per capita consumption rate of cigarettes at 3,323 cigarettes in 2012.

Other states experienced a decline in cigarette demand. Hong Kong came in first in that regard, as it recorded a 70 percent decline in tobacco consumption, followed by the UK, Venezuela, Panama, and Estonia with a decline of at least 60 percent.

Among the countries that recorded the highest rates of decline, Estonia has the highest per capita rate of cigarettes at 1,063 in 2012 followed by Latvia at 731 cigarettes.

Over the past two years, Lebanon has increased the manufacturing capacity of its national cigarette brand “Cedars,” which is produced by the Regie Libanaise des Tabacs et Tombacs. As a result of the Syrian crisis, the increase in the number of refugees and the halt in the production of the famous Syrian cigarette brand al-Hamraa, the Regie increased its production from 4,000 boxes per month to 15,000 boxes. The number is expected to increase to 40,000 in the upcoming period.

According to the latest data by the UN World Health Organization, the total smoking rate in Lebanon is 38.5 percent among adults. The rate goes up to 46.8 percent among men, meaning nearly half of adult males in Lebanon are smokers.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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