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Saudi Arabia

Government slammed for not raising tax on cigarettes

The anti-smoking society, Niqaa, is blaming the Ministry of Finance for the spread of smoking in the country because of its continued refusal to increase taxes on the import of tobacco. The ministry argues that if it did so smuggling will increase.
The issue was highlighted yesterday on the World Anti-Smoking Day under the slogan "No to ads, promotion and patronage of tobacco."
“The issue of price is the responsibility of the Finance Ministry, and it always comes up with the excuse that raising the price will encourage smuggling,” Society President Mohammad Jaber Alyamani said.
“This is because smokers will not buy if it costs up to SR 40 a packet. We have raised this issue with the ministry but it still has reservation, and says this will increase smuggling.”
Mohammad Al-Quhiess, former Shoura Council member, said in interviews that there is a strong tobacco lobby in the Kingdom.
He added that the resolve to fight spread of tobacco has been made by the Shuora Council and will be implemented soon.
He said the price of cigarettes in Saudi Arabia is the lowest in the world and taxes on tobacco are very low, something which encourages youngsters and adults to start and continue smoking. In Europe and South America the price of a packet of cigarettes can be as high as SR 40 but in Saudi Arabia, its just SR 5.
He said that tobacco companies in Saudi Arabia have become audacious, distributing cigarettes on the World Anti-Smoking Day on the Al Hamara Beach in Jeddah. He stressed that everybody has to take a strong and serious stand against smoking in Saudi Arabia, especially among young people. Statistics show that there are 6 million smokers in the kingdom, of which 600,000 are women.
“The percentage of smokers in boys schools in the Kingdom is more than 12 percent, whereas the percentage the world over is decreasing.
“The issue of financial support is a major hindrance facing the society, coupled with the lack of effective laws to stop smoking in public places such as airports, where one can find officers smoking under the 'no smoking' signs.”
He said the Health Ministry is playing its role and has an anti-smoking campaign and will sign an agreement with the society to increase efforts against smoking.

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