The price of tobacco products has risen sharply in Egypt as the result of a new tax aimed at encouraging smokers to kick their habit.

Under the new levy, which came into force on 1 July, the cost of cigarettes has risen by 40 per cent and of the tobacco used for smoking the highly popular water pipes, or shisha, by 100 per cent. The money raised from the new tax will be used to fund public health programmes and offset planned reductions in government subsidies.

There are an estimated 20 million smokers in Egypt against a total population of 80 million and the number has grown over twice as fast as the population over the last 30 years, according to the World Health Organisation. Egypt is the largest cigarette manufacturer in the Middle East, producing 0.7 per cent of the world