A tax on products bad for the health, such as fast food and tobacco, could be on the way in Oman soon, following a rise in petrol and gas prices.
GCC governments reportedly agreed last November to impose a uniform tax of 100 per cent on tobacco and related items, but this has yet to be introduced.
Speaking on the sidelines of a press conference this week to announce the first GCC Cancer Awareness Week, Oman’s Minister of Health, Dr Ahmed Mohammed al Saidi, said the taxes must be introduced “soon”, along with a tax on other products bad for the health, including fast food and soft drinks.
His comments followed reports that the number of lung cancer patients in Oman was expected to rise dramatically and become the most common cancer in the Sultanate in the next five years, according to the director of oncology at the Royal Hospital.
Currently, there are 600 cancer patients for each one million population, said Dr Basim al Bahrani, who is also head of medical oncology at the hospital.
He added that the number of cancer patients in the Sultanate was expected to increase in the forthcoming years due to several factors, including bad food habits, obesity, lack of exercise, smoking and drinking alcohol.
“By 2040, we will be likely expecting more than 3,500 cases of cancer every year,” he added.
The latest statistics from the National Oncology Centre showed that the number of visits to outpatient clinics reached 19,103 in 2015, an increase of 10 per cent compared to 2014.
Imposing a tax on products and food contributing to this rise – 97 per cent of those diagnosed with lung cancer are smokers – could help to reduce the financial burden of treating patients. The cost of cancer treatment in Oman government hospitals can reach RO30,000 per year for each patient, according to the Ministry of Health.
Obesity levels, caused by a junk food diet and lack of exercise, are also soaring in the Sultanate and creating a generation of diabetics.
A tax on tobacco and fast food follows a 33 per cent rise in super unleaded petrol, which came into effect last month. All the GCC countries are also reported to be looking at imposing Value Add Tax (VAT) in the near future to shore up budget deficits due to falling oil prices.