VAT on tobacco in Saudi Arabia persuades many smokers to quit, but some hang on

Many smokers to quit after the Kingdom introduce VAT. (Shutterstock)
Updated 09 May 2018

VAT on tobacco in Saudi Arabia persuades many smokers to quit, but some hang on

  • Layla Amin, a 55-year-old grandmother, quit the habit with the introduction of the VAT
  • Khalid, a university student, said: “I enjoy it very much. My whole family smokes so it is the norm"

RIYADH: Many Saudis say the increase in tobacco prices which doubled after the introduction of the value-added tax (VAT) in June last year, has helped them to quit this bad habit.

Salman Al-Imam, a Sudanese driver living in Saudi Arabia, gave up 10 months ago. “I had been smoking for 15 years and never thought I’d quit,” he said. “However, with willpower, determination and Champix, I now can’t even stand the smell. I’d rather spend that money on my family.”

Layla Amin, a 55-year-old grandmother, quit the habit with the introduction of the VAT. She said the hefty prices gave her the push she always needed. “I’ve wanted to quit for years, but I never had the incentive. Now, I feel better, healthier and happier than I’ve been in the past 30 years of smoking! I pray that all smokers detest smoking as much as I do now!”

Others are not as keen to let it go. Khalid, a university student, said: “I enjoy it very much. My whole family smokes so it is the norm. Yes, cigarettes are more expensive now, but I can still afford them. What I can’t afford is letting go of this pleasure. It’s addictive and I enjoy it. Maybe in the future, I’ll quit but not now.”

Others have found their way around paying the VAT on tobacco. “I just buy packets from airports when I travel. They sell for less than half the price here in Saudi Arabia! Problem solved,” said Noura, a bank employee.

Many outdoor cafes in Jeddah allow smoking and shisha, also known as hubbly bubbly or hookah. It is a tobacco that comes in various flavors.

Riyadh does not accommodate these cafes. It has stricter rules and in general, smoking is frowned upon by society. Dr. Ali Al-Wadey, general supervisor of the anti-smoking program in the Ministry of Health, and secretary-general of the National Committee for Tobacco Control noted that: “The turnout in smoking cessation clinics increased by 302 percent over the same period last year after selective taxation. There has been a decrease in tobacco imports.”

The ministry has taken many initiatives to curb smoking. In addition to running different awareness campaigns, the authorities have introduced treatment services like anti-smoking clinics.

 These clinics are run by medical staff trained to help people quit this habit and provide counseling and follow-up services. 


Music blooms in Saudi Arabia's mountain resort city of Taif as rose ensemble takes a bow

Updated 10 min 41 sec ago

Music blooms in Saudi Arabia's mountain resort city of Taif as rose ensemble takes a bow

  • An orchestra of Ukrainian and Russian musicians performed enchanting symphonies by Mozart and Beethoven at the Ward (Rose) Village
  • The month-long Taif Season festival highlights the city as a leading Arab tourist destination

TAIF: Hanging from suspended imitation rose flowers and dressed in white, an orchestra of Ukrainian and Russian musicians performed enchanting symphonies by Mozart and Beethoven at the Ward (Rose) Village in Taif’s Arrudaf Park as part of Taif Season.

The month-long Taif Season will run during August with more than 70 quality events designed to highlight the city as a popular Arab resort and leading Arab tourist destination.

Female musicians in the orchestra played from a height of seven meters, delighting large crowds with a spectacular performance of well-known symphonies.

Mashaal Al-Rashid, head of the company organizing the Rose Village Festival, told Arab News that the name ‘Rose Village’ was chosen in recognition of the importance of rose as the icon of Taif.

“The festival’s content was elaborated, and all the activities and events organized so as to promote the value, and the social and economic significance of Taif’s roses,” he said.

Al-Rashid said that the hanging roses orchestra was inspired by the beauty of Taif’s mountains and their startling roses. 

“Each flower carries a musician holding her instrument, delivering a breathtaking performance and an enjoyable experience,” he said.

The orchestra includes musicians from several countries who were selected after delivering string performances in various world capitals.

 Dr. Nayef Al-Buraq, dean of Taif University’s College of Arts, said that Taif’s character is based on its culture and location.

“It is a cultural tourist icon that evolves year after year to keep pace with the national Vision 2030, with events that attract visitors from around the world,” he said.

“The programs aims to promote quality of life, reflected through the joyful Taif Season that paints a bright picture of Saudi creativity,” said Al-Buraq.

He said that the challenges faced in preparing for this season included developing quality academic programs, highlighting popular arts, and attracting Arab, Saudi and international creative involvement.

“These challenges highlight the leading role played by the Kingdom’s government in catering for culture and arts, and turning this festival into a tourist and cultural event throughout the year,” he said.

Festival visitor Omar Al-Khalidi said that the event offers musical attractions and cultural arts that have long been absent from Taif.

“Everyone knows that Taif is the city of arts and culture, and the first Saudi city to host a movie theater. Arrudaf Park was the scene for concerts for well-known artists such as Abdullah Mohammed, Mohammed Abdu, Talal Maddah and many other Arab talents,” he said.