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.


US highlights Saudi Arabia’s key role in global fight against terrorism

Saudi Arabia has continued to maintain a strong anti-terrorism relationship with the US. (SPA)
Updated 20 September 2018
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US highlights Saudi Arabia’s key role in global fight against terrorism

  • The US State Department pointed out that the Kingdom has achieved a high level of accuracy in its counterterrorism operations

WASHINGTON: The US State Department has praised Saudi Arabia for its efforts to combat terrorism, describing the Kingdom as an active and key member in the global coalition to defeat Daesh.
“Saudi Arabia has continued to maintain a strong anti-terrorism relationship with the United States and has supported the strengthening of bilateral cooperation between the two countries,” the State Department noted in its annual report on the global state of terrorism. It also highlighted the joint strategic vision between the two countries and a number of new initiatives to counter terrorist messages and disrupt the financing of terrorism launched last year during US president Donald-Trump’s visit to the Kingdom.
The report said Saudi Arabia has implemented systems to follow UN Security Council sanctions on groups and individuals linked to Daesh and Al Qaeda, and has expanded existing counterterrorism programs and projects to rehabilitate terrorist fighters who leave extremist groups. It has also adopted laws to counter the financing of terrorist groups.
The State Department pointed out that the Kingdom has achieved a high level of accuracy in its counterterrorism operations, and has carried out a number of arrests and disrupted active terrorist cells throughout the country.
The report referred to terrorist plans that were thwarted in the Kingdom, noting the efforts being made in legislation, law enforcement and border security, as well as the country’s positive contribution as a member of the Financial Action Task Force for the Middle East and North Africa, a regional body that imposes financial sanctions on individuals and groups that help to fund terrorism.
"The Kingdom has maintained strict control over the banking sector and tightened sanctions on the financing of terrorism," the report said.
It also pointed out that the Kingdom provided 100 million euros ($117 million) to fight terrorism in the Sahel countries in Africa, as the Kingdom is a founding member of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum.