New rules to see all cigarette packets in UAE tagged to tackle smugglers

New law comes into effect from January

Cigarettes that do not have a sophisticated digital seal will be banned from import from May 1. Stephen Lock / The National
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All cigarettes sold in the UAE must contain a new government-approved mark from January 1, 2019.

The Federal Tax Authority said the new law regulations applies to cigarettes sold locally regardless of whether they are imported or packaged in the UAE.

The mark will allow the tax authority to digitally track cigarettes from production until they reach the consumer, to guarantee compliance with excise tax requirements on tobacco products.

It is estimated that as many as a third of cigarettes sold in the emirates do not meet legal requirements.

Many 'white' cigarettes as they are known are made in factories legally but are smuggled into the country without the tax having been paid, or the quality falls short of approved standards.

The rules were approved by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Minister of Finance and Chairman of the Federal Tax Authority on Tuesday.

“Marks will be placed on the packaging of tobacco products and registered in the FTA’s database,” said a tax authority spokesman.

“The marks contain data that can be read using special devices. The scheme facilitates inspection and control procedures at customs ports and markets to prohibit the sale of products where taxes have not been collected.”


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He also warned that tobacco suppliers who do not abide by the new law face fines or being banned from operating their businesses.

It will not be permissible to import designated excise goods, which do not have the special marks, into the UAE from May 1.

That law will extend to the supply of designated excise goods, which will not be permissible in the UAE from August 1, again if they do not have the marks on them.

The marks must be placed on the cigarettes at the location where they are manufactured, if they are made in the UAE, or at a location outside the UAE if they are imported.

There are plans to eventually include all tobacco products, the FTA said.