Tunisia’s National Tobacco and Matches Board (RNTA) and Kairouan’s Tobacco factory (both state institutions) announced on Monday raised prices of some products, including cigarettes, and other state-produced materials.
The hike in prices has caused a wave of popular rage, especially among smokers, in light of the deteriorated economic situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The announced raise ranged between eight and 12 percent and included five products that only the government produces and promotes.
It is noteworthy that Tunisian cigarettes’ markets often suffer from speculation and monopoly, which leads to interruptions in their supply and hike in their prices and causes citizens to resort to the black market to obtain them.
This increase is expected to affect Tunisian people’s purchasing power.
According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2009, 65 percent of Tunisians over the age of 25 are smokers.
In this regard, Tunisian Economic and Financial Expert Saad Boumakhla said cigarettes and some of the state-acquired economic activities generate many financial resources to country’s treasury.
Therefore, he stressed, it is not willing to let go or introduce private capital in its manufacturing and production projects.
Commenting on the current price increase, Boumakhla said its economic impact will be significant and clear on a number of commercial activities.
However, he ruled out any controversy among politicians, whether from the government coalition or the opposition, due to how citizens consider smoking in general.
Boumakhla affirmed that most Tunisians consider it a “social luxury” rather than a necessity, unlike subsidized basic and food items, which successive governments do not risk modifying their prices without extensive discussions with social parties.
Tunisia receives about 300 million boxes of smuggled cigarettes to its domestic markets, mainly from neighboring Algeria and Libya.
This causes huge losses to the state treasury, estimated between 500 and 700 million Tunisian dinars annually, especially that smuggled cigarettes are highly demanded by Tunisians due to their low prices compared with local ones.