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Smoking by T&T’s teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15 has placed this country as the fourth highest in the region where this problem is concerned, said Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

“It’s shocking,” Imbert declared in Parliament yesterday as he piloted a provisional collection of taxes order concerning excise taxes on cigarettes and tobacco.

The taxes were announced in the 2021 Budget. The order is needed to implement it and is a procedural matter which doesn’t require Senate approval.

Imbert noted that in T&T 33 per cent of adult males smoke and 10 per cent of females do the same. He said tobacco is among the top three causes of diseases such as heart-related ailments, diabetes and cerebral vascular conditions.

Earlier in the sitting, Imbert had confirmed that a total of 17,046 people had failed to get through with the Finance Ministry’s Salary Relief Grant.

Imbert said up to September 25 a total of 81,000 grants were paid to 77,736 people costing $129 million.

Imbert said up to then, the 17,046 applications for such grants were rejected because it involved people who’d left their jobs before the COVID restrictions began, those who submitted no proof of identification or citizenship, people who were dismissed for reasons other than COVID, those who had no certification from employers on job loss, plus others who didn’t declare their forms properly or didn’t sign them or had invalid NIS status or were underage or overage.