Smoking ban in holy cities stays

Updated 15 January 2013
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Smoking ban in holy cities stays

Officials in Makkah and Madinah have denied rumors that they were about to lift the ban on tobacco sales in the two holy cities. They reaffirmed that no new licenses for selling tobacco, cigarettes and hubble-bubble will be issued.
Many cafes suffer heavy financial losses because of the tobacco ban in the two holy cities. They were forced to redesign their commercial activities in response to the biggest anti-smoking campaigns in the history of the Kingdom.
The initiative to ban tobacco sales resulted in raids aimed at stopping illegal transactions. Traders who violate the law that prohibits tobacco sales are compelled to pay fines, and their stores could be closed if they are cited for a third violation.
Yahya Saif, assistant undersecretary of Madina Services, confirmed that the ban on tobacco sales will continue. He said a report in a local newspaper that claimed that the municipality had backed off from the smoking ban and was issuing new licenses within Haram boundaries is incorrect.
Saif said: “In line with the mutual efforts of relevant government bodies to emancipate Madinah from smoking, no licenses for selling tobacco are renewed.”
“Despite the new experience, combating smoking is a very successful long-term program that projects an ideal image of Makkah to the hearts of Muslims,” according to Ahmad Alamoudi, general manager of the Association for Anti-Smoking in Makkah.
“The scheme is very effective. We are planning to consolidate its various aspects by launching enlightenment campaigns to shed light and focus on the dangers of smoking.”
On the other hand, Khalid Algarhi, a health care supervisor, said: “The resolution has not yet lived up to the level of its stated goals ... Cafes on the Makkah-Jeddah Highway were excluded from the resolution although they are located inside the Haram boundary."
Algarhi also pointed to the lack of adherence to the new law by many government and private institutions, including educational institutions.
A survey conducted in Makkah revealed that raids were not followed by strict control of the market. Especially in the evening, cafes operate as usual with no change after smoking was banned. Others closed because of the financial impact of the smoking ban.
Abdullah Al-Da’adi, a café owner in Alhosaynia District, said: “Banning smoking is still valid in Makkah and it has caused the expected financial loss. Transactions have decreased by more than 50 percent since smoking was banned.”
Because of restrictions imposed by the municipality and the unannounced inspections, many cafes changed their business model.
“A cigarette black market was created by some greedy traders in the holy cities who sell tobacco for much higher prices,” according to Fahd Alalawi.
The ban on tobacco sales has forced smokers to search everywhere possible for a cigarette. Consequently, a new market came into being.
Despite the high price, the persistent effort to control this new black market and confiscation of their illegal goods, tobacco peddlers still find ways to stay in business.
“Combating tobacco requires significant effort by the family and society,” said Dr. Ibrahim Alharbi of Alnour Hospital.
“The proper program includes educating smokers about the great dangers of smoking which helps them quit this bad habit through creative activities.”
According to the Anti-Smoking Charitable Society, Saudi Arabia spends SR8 billion ($2.1 billion) annually on treating smokers.


Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

Updated 15 min 4 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

  • They start their engines and hit the roads throughout the Kingdom
  • End of driving ban is crowning achievement so far of Saudi Vision 2030

Women throughout Saudi Arabia waited for the stroke of midnight, turned the keys in the ignition, fired up their engines — and hit the road to a bright new future.

It was the moment they had waited for since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

Just after midnight on Saturday and in the first minutes of Sunday, Samah Algosaibi grabbed the keys to her family’s 1959 Corvette C1 and drove out of the driveway of her beach house in Khobar.
“We are witnessing history in the making as we look toward the dawn of a promising future,” said Algosaibi, the first female board member of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Bros.

“As a businesswoman in Saudi Arabia, I am grateful for the women’s empowerment movement taking place. Today, I am honored to be sitting behind the wheel of change.”

Another woman to hit the road after midnight was Lina Almaeena, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council. “It feels very liberating,” she said about driving her mother’s Lexus.
Almaeena, also the co-founder and director of Jeddah United Sports Co, had exchanged her UAE license for a Saudi one. 

“I am thrilled!” Sarah Alwassia, 35, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News. “I learnt how to drive 18 years ago in the States where I got my driving license. I can’t believe that the day to drive in my own home town has come.”

Alwassia obtained her first American license when she was 18 years old in 2000, and had it exchanged for a Saudi license on June 6 in Jeddah. She explained that she is a mother, and this change provided comfort for her and her family. It also comes with various benefits, such as taking quick action in emergencies, and economic benefits such as saving money instead of paying for a driver when she needs to run errands. 

“I will be driving my kids to school and picking them up in comfort and privacy,” she said.

Women in the Kingdom commented on how this event is changing the course of their lives. “Independence is a huge thing for me,” Alwassia said. “Driving is one small part of it. I am very optimistic of the change that our loving country has made.”  

Alwassia applauds the efforts the country has made to support women. “I am confident that driving in the beginning will be pleasant, since our country has made all of the effort to support women and to protect them.
“I think our society was looking forward for this change, and I am sure the majority will adapt fast.

“I feel safe, our country did everything to make this transition pleasant and safe for every woman behind the wheel. I am really thankful to witness this historic moment and I am so happy for all the women in Saudi Arabia, especially my daughters.”
Sahar Nasief, 64, a retired lecturer from the European languages and Literature Department at King Abdulaziz University, said: “Nothing could describe my feelings. I can't wait to get on the road.”
Nasief received a very special gift from Ford for this occasion.

“They gave me a 2018 Expedition to drive for three days, a Mustang California Special,” she told Arab News.

Nasief obtained her Saudi license on June 7. She also holds a British license and two American licenses. “Now, I have my national license too,” she said. 

She also said the lifting of the ban provided a sense of relief. “I feel that I can practice one of my rights, and I don't have to live at the mercy of my driver any more.”
Society has been demanding such a change for years, “as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men.”
Pointing to the anti-harassment law, Nasief said: “I feel very confident especially after announcing the strict harassment law.”
Joumana Mattar, 36, a Jordanian interior designer, exchanged her Jordanian driver’s license and obtained a Saudi one on June 11. 

“I had my Jordanian license since I was 18 years old, and the moment I heard about the opening of exchanging foreign licenses, I immediately booked an appointment,” she said.
Mattar said she looks forward to the change in so many ways. “I'm finally in control of my time, schedule and privacy.” 

Mattar said she is both confident and anxious about the event. “I'm anxious only for feeling that I'm part of a huge first step for women driving in the Kingdom, but I'm confident also because of the support that I'm getting from my husband and family.
“Every first step is the hardest. Society is facing a huge change, but I'm positive because this change is done and supported by the government and Vision 2030.”

Mattar said she feels secure now. “I'm in control of any case I'm facing.”