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Thursday, 12 July 2018

Smoker’s delight

As a nation of smokers wakes up to news that their smokes are more expensive, it is not surprising that the talking heads transfixed by it. In fact, today’s talk show report is all about healthcare: From cancer sticks and hospitals to access to birth control and the Health Ministry’s decision to play the national anthem at state hospitals to improve morale. Side effects may include nausea.

Eastern Tobacco Company is raising the price of the cigarettes it produces EGP 1.5-3 per pack today, which the company’s CEO said was due to the state’s EGP 0.75 rise in the sin tax to pay for the new healthcare system. Earlier this week, Eastern Tobacco had denied it was raising prices following reports that it increased prices on four local cigarette brands. Eastern CEO Mohamed Haroun told Yahduth fi Masr’s Sherif Amer that the decision has been on the books since January, but these would only come into effect after six months. The sin tax increase should net the state around EGP 3 bn in annual revenues.

The most frightful figure of the interview: Egypt consumes 83 bn cigarettes a year, Haroun said, with an average of 280 mn cigarette per day (we don’t get his math, either) (watch, runtime: 5:34). Haroun also spoke to Masaa DMC’s Osama Kamal to say that other tobacco companies may choose to raise prices more than Eastern has (watch, runtime: 5:17).

Health Minister Hala Zayed defended her decision to play the national anthem and Hippocratic oath in hospitals, telling Kamal (in an off-camera talk) that it would somehow result in doctors delivering better care to patients. Kamal was not convinced, and neither are we (watch, runtime: 3:52).

Hona Al Asema tackled women’s access to birth control. The show quoted former deputy Health Minister Maissa Shawki’s statements that some 2 mn women have no access to contraceptives. Lamees Al Hadidi’s current stand-in, Reham Ibrahim, spoke to the head of survey firm Baseera, Maged Othman, who said the figures she quoted were “very worrying”. He noted that access to contraceptives is generally more limited in Upper Egypt. Othman said around a quarter of Sohag’s women do not have access to birth control. He called on authorities to make this a priority (watch, runtime: 9:29).

Supreme Media Council head Makram Mohamed Ahmed answered a summons by the Prosecutor General yesterday to explain his decision to impose a media gag on the corruption investigation of the 57357 Children’s Cancer Hospital. Press Syndicate official Hatem Zakaria told Hona Al Asema that the inquiry has not seen charges brought against Ahmed, but was limited to why he imposed the gag order in the first place (watch, runtime: 3:17).

The committee tasked with managing Ikhwan assets had so far seized funds belonging to 2,100 alleged members, Masaa DMC’s Osama Kamal said, citing sources. Accounts of some 350 companies, 105 hospitals and medical centers, 120 schools, 1,133 NGOs and 300 feddans have also been seized. On the media front, 16 news website, 16 TV channel, and two newspapers saw their assets sequestered by the committee (watch, runtime: 5:07).

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