Source: Press TV
The sidewalks in Tehran are always strewn with cigarette butts. When scarce downpours hit, they are washed into nearby gutters but it takes no time before the pavements become littered with another stubbed-out stock.
cartoon by Javad Takjou, Arman daily
Iranians puff on 65 billion sticks of cigarette a year, leaving families with a bill of more than $200 million in medical expenses.
Contraband supplies have a big share in the bad habit. According to official figures, 24 billion sticks are smuggled into the country with US brands being in high demand.
MP Hossein Tala recently complained that 16 varieties of Marlboro, made by Philip Morris USA, were being consumed in Iran.
The number of those seeking a fix with American brands is reportedly rising. According to the ISNA news agency, 6-7 billion Marlboro cigarettes are annually used in Iran which translated to the imports of three truckloads per week.
It said numerous transit routes were being used and the smugglers were using "official" corridors to traffic bootleg cigarettes.
When US Senator John McCain was asked about rising US cigarette exports to Iran in 2008, he had a tongue-in-cheek retort: "It may be a way of killing 'em."
The comment sparked an outcry, forcing the anti-Iran politician to state that he meant it "as a joke".
Whether joking or not, US exports of "cancer sticks" to Iran are a serious matter.
According to MP Abdorreza Mesri, "Certain powers are behind (illegal) imports of cigarettes and a powerful mafia is operating in the field of importing such products."
Some officials say government has to impose higher tobacco taxes in order to slash smuggling.
Health Minister Hassan Hashemi says the government must raise taxes "instead of closing our eyes and promoting smuggling".
"It is a big lie when certain people claim that hiking taxes could exacerbate smuggling. These claims are made by those who are tainted with smuggling themselves."
... Payvand News - 05/19/15 ... --