Smokers in Abu Dhabi supported the excise tax on tobacco in principle but said it would not stop them from indulging in their habit.
On Wednesday afternoon, shisha cafes and tobacco shops in Khalidiya had a steady stream of regular customers.
“Our sales have doubled in the last week,” said Hussein Mahmoud, a sales associate at Hatta Smoking Accessories. “After the taxes, sales could go down and they could go up. We don’t know and we won’t know until it happens.”
“God knows,” said his friend, Ali Gulam.
Ahmed Al Ameri, 35, a customer from Al Ain, was sceptical. “I heard that prices would increase but they’ve said that before and it was just talk,” he said.
Syrian Ameer Hussein, who had come to buy a kilogram of apple shisha for a friend, said he plans to quit. “But not because of the laws, no. I’m quitting because my wife told me if I don’t she’ll get another man,” said the 76-year-old.
For others, the price hike is a much-needed push.
“I will stop,” said Moroccan Ismail El Haddari, who was smoking outside a nearby cafeteria. “The price will be too high for me because I smoke two packs a day. If people have the will, they can do anything.
“Once the price goes up, that’s it. I mean, I am the one who buys the cigarettes, they don’t buy me.”
However, he quickly reconsidered. “OK, maybe I will not stop but I will cut back. I do like it because, when you smoke, it makes you forget things,” he said.
Shisha cafes and regular customers were unsure whether the new tax would apply to shisha, which costs as little as Dh12 a head, but as shisha contains tobacco, it will be subject to the tax.
At Dar Al Zein Internet Cafe, a shisha cafe that defies its name by not having any computers, workers did not expect business to be affected.
“It doesn’t matter if the price goes up or down,” said Emirati law graduate Obaid Al Ghafli, after finishing his midday pipe in the busy cafe. “The only thing that matters is will. People will always find a way.”