Tobacco Industry Country Profile - Maldives

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Image 1: Map of Maldives (Source: National Bureau of Statistics, Maldives)

The Republic of Maldives (Dhivehi: ދިވެހިރާއްޖެ Dhivehi Raajje) is a small island nation in South Asia, located on the equator in the Indian Ocean, South-West of Sri Lanka and South of India. Maldives has 26 natural atolls, divided into 20 administrative atolls, over an area of 115,300 sq. km (including sea). [1] Tourism and fisheries are the mainstays of the economy. The country is dependent on imports, except for fisheries products. Maldives is the smallest Asian country by area and population, with a projected population for 2019 of 533,940 inhabitants.[2][1]

The capital city, Malé, located centrally, is one of the most densely populated cities in the world and is the home to about one-third of the total population of the country.

Maldives is the most low-lying country in the world, with an average elevation above sea level of 1.5 meters and highest point of 5.1 meters. It is amongst the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change and sea level rise.[3]

Tobacco in Maldives

Tobacco has been used in the Maldives for many decades. “Gudugudaa”, a traditional form of “shisha” with no flavouring was commonly used in all islands. Men used to smoke hand-rolled bidis and chewing tobacco with arecanut [4] was also common. According to 2018 figures, 8.5% of men and 4.2% of women use smokeless tobacco. Locals have largely switched to cigarette use and, while chewing arecanut is still high, chewing tobacco use is negligible. Expatriate workers continue to use bidis, whereas the younger generation, both male and female, increasingly take up shisha, vaping and other novel tobacco products. [5]

According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey 2018, children start smoking as young as from nine years of age.[6] Over the last few years, shisha with different flavouring has also become very common, particularly as a trend among youth.[7]

It is illegal to grow tobacco or to do primary processing of tobacco in Maldives. No tobacco products are produced in the Maldives.

Burden of tobacco (Image 2)

Current Tobacco Use (WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2019) [5]

  • 53.1% Males and 8.9% Females (Demographic and Health Survey, 2009; National, ages 15-64) smoke tobacco
  • 46.8% Males and 2.3% Females (Demographic and Health Survey, 2009; National, ages 15-64) smoke cigarette
  • 15.8% Males and 6.8% Females (Global School-Based Student Health Survey, 2014; National, ages 13-15) use tobacco
  • 12.3% Males and 5.4% Females (Global School-Based Student Health Survey, 2014; National, ages 13-15) smoke cigarette


  • 84% of deaths are due to Non-Communicable Diseases (Demographic and Health Survey, 2009; National, ages 15-64)
  • 15.3% of deaths are related to Tobacco (Demographic and Health Survey, 2009; National, ages 15-64)

Image 2: Tobacco use prevalence from the latest survey completed. (Source: WHO Country Profile, Maldives)

Tobacco Industry in the Maldives

Since there is no tobacco growing, primary processing or production (except for small scale bidi production), the Tobacco industry in Maldives mostly includes importers, distributors and wholesalers. Maldives is a net importer of tobacco products, including various brands of cigarettes, shisha tobacco and other tobacco products. Camel, Marlboro, Dunhill, American Legend and Benson & Hedges are among the most commonly sold cigarette brands in the country. The main importers are: [8]

  • CGT Maldives - Agents for Camel and related brands of Japan Tobacco International (JTI)
  • Blenx Maldives - Agents for Marlboro and related brands of Philip Morris International (PMI)
  • Lotus Fihaara - Agents for American Legend
  • OCC Pvt Ltd - Agents for Benson & Hedges and related brands of Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC), various shisha tobacco and vaping products
  • Grape Expectations Pvt Ltd - Agent for various shisha tobacco brands
  • Maldives Airports Company Limited - Imports various brands and products for airport duty free
  • NAMCO Pvt Ltd - Importers of Akij Biri, commonly used by Bangladeshi expatriate workers

Customs statistics show that in 2018 465,597,841 sticks of tobacco containing cigarettes were imported to Maldives.[9]

Role in the economy

According to Maldives Customs Service Statistics for 2018, USD1.3 million was spent on importing tobacco products annually.[8] The total annual tax revenues from tobacco products at the national/federal level is MVR 575,493,807.65 (Approximately USD 37,321,258.6).[5]

Cigarettes are taxed at MVR 2.00 per stick and 25% of C.I.F (Cost, Insurance and Freight), while all other tobacco products are taxed at 200% of C.I.F, although retail prices still remain low (about USD 5 per 20 cigarette pack)

Tobacco Control Act

The Tobacco Control Act (law No: 15/2010) was passed in July 2010. This act prohibits any type of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS), prohibits sale to and by children under 18 or through any platform that cannot verify the age of the buyer. The act designates various public places as smoke free, including, places of worship, educational institutes, government offices, sporting arenas, rehabilitation centers, public transport and various open public spaces. Smoking is banned except at designated or licensed smoking areas at eateries. The Act also mandates the government to provide cessation services.[10]

There are two important regulations in force under the act: [11]

  1. “Smoke Free Public Places regulation” (Regulation Specifying Smoke Free Places) was enacted in January 2012. Violations may attract fines ranging from MVR 500.00 to MVR 5000.00 for a single offence.
  2. “Regulation on Packaging and labeling of Tobacco Products”, mandates combined graphic health warnings on the back and front of cigarette packets and the two opposing largest surfaces of other tobacco packages, covering 90% of such surfaces. It also stipulates minimum quantities for packaging and sale. Cigarettes may be packed and sold in 20 stick packets, and bidis in 50 stick packages, and other tobacco products not less than 30 gms.
Image 3: Graphic Health Warnings in cigarette packs. (Source: Ministry of Health, Maldives)

TUSouth.Asia Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 National Bureau of Statistics. Statistical Pocketbook of Maldives, 2019, accessed February 2020
  2. Maldives Marketing & Public Relations Corporation. Discover geography of Maldives, accessed 10 February 2020
  3. The World Bank. Climate change in the Maldives, 6 April 2010, accessed February 2020
  4. Arecanut. Arecanut, accessed 10 February 2020
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 World Health Organization. WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic 2019, 2019, accessed February 2020
  6. Health Protection Agency, Ministry of Health, 2014, accessed February 2020
  7. M Rehan. Tobacco attributes 27% deaths in Maldives; Health Minister, Avas.MV, 7 June 2018, accessed February 2020
  8. 8.0 8.1 Health Protection Agency, Ministry of Health, 2017, accessed February 2020
  9. Maldives Customs. Statistics 2018, accessed 13 February 2020
  10. Attorney General’s Office. Tobacco Control Act, 2010, accessed 10 February 2020
  11. MOH. 2019 Regulation on packaging and labelling of tobacco products, accessed February 2020