Oman’s economy was negatively impacted by low oil prices and OPEC+ production cuts in 2019, with this continuing in 2020. In June 2019 Oman introduced a ‘sin tax’ on tobacco, alcohol, pork, energy drinks and carbonated drinks.
Tobacco was already suffering from the fallout of the introduction of a 100% tax in June 2019, when COVID-19 hit the country. Oman has imposed a range of strict measures during 2020 to control the spread of COVID-19 with consumers being forced to spend more time at home and some retailers, including tobacco specialists, being forced to close.
As of 17 May 2020, Oman has seen around 20 deaths due to COVID-19 and 5,200 cases. The first reported case was on 24 February and on 14 March, all educational institutions including schools and universities closed, while it was announced the school year would end on 7 May.
While there is growing awareness of the potential negative health effects, smoking is generally accepted, especially among men, and practised, especially in urban areas. The use of shisha/hookah is also common in social situations, particularly among Omani nationals and expatriates from the Levant.
While there is no domestic tobacco industry in Oman, tobacco plays a major role in Oman's economy, with it providing the government with substantial revenue from taxes. Oman levies a 100% customs duty on cigarettes and tobacco products and it introduced a special tax of 100% in 2019.
Oman has a modern road infrastructure and most of the country’s population is concentrated in the coastal corridor between the northern Governorate of Musandam and Muscat, with one third of the country’s population resident in the Muscat Governorate. As a result, the distribution of tobacco is fairly smooth, despite the large majority of Oman’s territory being covered in desert.
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