Elderly Cubans will no longer be
entitled to state-subsidised cigarettes after President Raul Castro axed the
programme in the latest austerity cuts designed to jump-start the country’s
Beginning next month, some 2.5
million Cubans over the age of 54 no longer will get their four packs of
cigarettes as part of the country’s ration programme.
“The Council of Ministers has
resolved to eliminate cigarettes from the rationed family basket as of
September as part of the measures gradually being adopted to limit state subsidies,”
an official statement said.
The cigarettes “are not a
primary necessity”, it added.
Mr Castro last month said that
communist-ruled Cuba’s ration system eventually will be eliminated as he moves
to modernise the island’s economy.
Monthly allotments of chickpeas,
potatoes and a pound of sugar were removed from the system earlier this year.
Many subsidised items were cut in
the 1990s after the collapse of former benefactor the Soviet Union plunged the
island into a deep recession. But allotments of inexpensive cigarettes for
Cubans born before 1956 were kept in place.
Earlier this month, Mr Castro eased
controls on small businesses in a move designed to promote self-employment.
Around 95 per cent of Cuban adults work for the government, but Mr Castro has
said as many as a fifth of their jobs are redundant and may be cut.
The moves are widely seen as a
signal that the president, who took over from his ailing brother, Fidel Castro,
in Feb 2008, is prepared to break with traditions that have been cornerstones
of communist life in Cuba for decades.