Lebanon Taxes Cigarettes and Booze

The proposed amendments to the smoking ban in Lebanon have fallen in parliament. The ratifications proposed by Antoine Zahra, Samer Saadeh and Nadim el Gemayel were not even accepted by their own parliamentary blocks. The restaurant syndicate has lost – and our lungs have won. (Details – in arabic).

Sami el Gemayel’s argument was exactly the same one I told to MP Samer Saadeh (here). You cannot verify which restaurants have more than 60% of their income from tobacco-related products, which makes any ratification prone for serious corruption.

As a step further, the government is proposing tax increases on tobacco and alcohol. Some people are, of course, not pleased with that. Such as MP Samer Saadeh.

 I think MP Saade is using the rhetoric that the people who like him would want to hear: that the government is the big bad person in all of this and taxing the cigarettes is simply overtaxing. While I certainly am not a supporter of our government, I have to disagree with MP Saade. The collective of Lebanese problems do not rest on the shoulders of this government alone, it is a cumulative effect that has been going on since 1990.

The problems with roads, electricity and unemployment benefits are problems for sure so how about we stop paying anything for our government just because what’s being offered is inadequate? We tend to forget that we already don’t pay much in taxes in Lebanon compared to other countries but that’s understandable seeing as we don’t get from our government, as MP Saade pointed out, what the citizens of other countries get out of theirs. Universal healthcare coverage isn’t even available in the United States and last time I checked, they pay taxes. Lots of them actually.

However, what people fail to realize, is that the law still means something in Lebanon. Perhaps not when it comes to driving though.

On the other hand, you have some Christian zealots who are outraged that alcohol prices are increasing. Somehow, in their head, this is a mark of islamization of the country. To those I say: shut up.

Lebanon needs more taxes on tobacco and alcohol simply because they are not a basic human right but a “privilege” that you shouldn’t get this cheap. We have some of the cheapest tobacco and alcohol prices in the world.Why’s that? Because at least half the country smokes and drinks, including those in charge of running this country.

But with taxing tobacco and alcohol, less people would consider buying them – especially the age group which is the most prone to start using them: those who do not work and have to rely on an allowance from their parents as their sole income. We shouldn’t look at taxing alcohol and tobacco as another input for a corrupt government, which it is, but in its side effect which the government probably had in the background: it would lead to further regulation and lesser consumption of substances that are slowly gnawing away at our community. And perhaps, in some scenario, it would lead the government to decrease taxes on other things which are more vital. Fuel for instance. Perhaps our MPs should start advocating for that?

Simply put, taxing tobacco and alcohol is another step on the path to becoming a better, civilized, country.



8 thoughts on “Lebanon Taxes Cigarettes and Booze

  1. Finally the government is doing something smart, I don’t want to get ahead of myself but it’s starting to feel like my country is starting to get modern laws. I was wondering what you think about taxing fast food and sodas like they’re starting to do in the US?


  2. Over here, the total taxes (VAT and excise tax) on cigarettes are a whopping 59% (of which 21% is VAT). Although VAT is (since recently) 21% for all non-essential commodities the excise taxes for alcohol vary. It depends on the percentage, whether it’s sparkling etc. (€0,53 for normal wine, €1,80 for champagne). So tell them that.

    I must say though that any tax on red wine is in fact a breach of human rights and totally unacceptable. I’m fine with the Islamization argument, all ends justify the means when it comes to this point 😉


    • VAT is 10% here. I’m not sure if it’s applied on cigarettes but a pack is less than $2 which makes the prices way too low to be acceptable. I’m all for overcharging smokers – maybe then they can decrease taxes on other commodities that everyone needs.


  3. Lebanon has driving laws? Grin. Agree with your analysis although I have sympathy for those that view smoking and a drink as their only comfort in today’s world. I smoked for 40+ years – Lucky Strike non-filters – and am glad I survived quitting – would not have money to live if I still smoked.Quit drinking years ago because it was drinking me. Work on real change and forget the palliatives – well maybe chocolate is still OK and a little ice cream now and then – grin.



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