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
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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. 


Saudi Arabia plans to create 561,000 jobs under new digital employment initiative

Updated 24 April 2019
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Saudi Arabia plans to create 561,000 jobs under new digital employment initiative

  • Qiwa program aims to achieve the Vision 2030 goal of reducing unemployment rate to 7 percent

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has revealed ambitious plans to create more than 561,000 private-sector jobs by 2023 as part of a new digital era for the Kingdom’s labor market.

Minister of Labor and Social Development Ahmad Al-Rajhi made the announcement at the launch of the Qiwa online platform, which aims to combine all the country’s employment services under one electronic roof.

Through digitalization, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development hopes to not only boost job opportunities for Saudi men and women, but also improve workplace efficiency and productivity, and attract international investment.

Al-Rajhi said: “The ministry has entered into partnerships and agreements to settle more than 561,000 job opportunities in the private sector until 2023,” and the minister added that 45,000 Saudis had entered the labor market in the last three months.

The new labor force platform will consolidate employment-related e-services already offered to job seekers, employees and employers and plans are in the pipeline to plug a further 71 services into the system.

The Qiwa program aims to provide Saudi government officials with a data mine of statistical information to tackle business challenges facing employers and employees, help create new job opportunities, and achieve the Vision 2030 goal of reducing the country’s unemployment rate to 7 percent. Another key objective is to strategically enhance the Kingdom’s business environment to make it more attractive to local and international investors.

A ministry statement issued to Arab News, said: “The Qiwa platform will have an impact on motivating investors. It will also re-engineer policies and procedures for all services provided to individuals and enterprises on a strong platform that will make a quantum leap in the business world and turn the Saudi market into an attractive market for opportunities and potential for competencies.

“The services are provided in both Arabic and English in order to enable foreign investors to benefit from the services of a strong platform,” the statement added.

The e-services include programs to encourage Saudis to access jobs in their locality by improving the workplace environment and making it more appealing to men and women.

The Kingdom’s public sector is quickly adapting to international standards and labor market demands by digitalizing services, while the ministry is using the latest business management methods to help public organizations increase the competency and productivity of workers while creating a competitive labor market that can partner with the private sector.