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.


Adventurous vehicles, unconventional colors in demand as women gear up to hit Saudi roads

Updated 23 June 2018
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Adventurous vehicles, unconventional colors in demand as women gear up to hit Saudi roads

  • The auto industry has an estimated 9 million potential new customers in the Saudi female population
  • The market has been overwhelmingly lopsided in favor of larger cars, says dealer

JEDDAH: Ever since the long-standing driving ban for women was lifted last September, auto-industry marketers have been scrambling to figure out just what women want. The auto industry has an estimated 9 million potential new customers in the Saudi female population who are now eligible to drive, an (em)powering move that instantly established Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest market
for new sales. 

But many Saudi women were less than impressed with the initial ad campaigns. Some felt that these were driven by an emotional play on women’s feelings. Many complained that they focused too heavily on feminine stereotypes, rather than offering any practical information. These campaigns, while witty and creative, lacked any real substance to help women with the necessary decision-making required when buying a vehicle. 

Jeddah resident Layla Hamdan, 26, spoke candidly with Arab News about which vehicle models appeal most to her and her friends. “A lot of the marketing toward women has been way off-base in my opinion,” she said. “They are appealing to a very feminine stereotype that is not accurate in regards to the cars we prefer. 

“Personally, I think pink is one of the ugliest colors for a car. It’s not even so much about style or flash for me either, it’s all about practicality. This is an exciting time for us. A time for freedom and adventure. To be able to explore our great country and go on fun road trips together. For these reasons me and many of my girlfriends prefer larger cars such as SUVs or large hatchbacks.” 

Quick to take notice were major players in the auto industry such as Abdul Latif Jameel Motors, General Motors and United Motors Co., which between them boast the authorized rights to sell Toyota, Chevrolet, GMC, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeeps in the Kingdom. These firms have ramped up their advertising and marketing campaigns, too, but have taken a more tactful and considerate approach. 

Along with establishing a call center managed exclusively by women to handle finance options and general inquiries, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors, the Japanese group’s authorized Toyota distributor in Saudi Arabia, will be designating showroom lots run by all-female staff.

General Motors, which has exclusive selling rights to Chevrolet and GMC autos in the Kingdom, recently promoted a Saudi-born female advertising executive to be the region’s chief copywriter and assist in crafting advertisement campaigns that are more in tune with women’s preferences. 

United Motors Co. is the sole distributor for Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Fiat and Alfa Romeo autos in the Kingdom. Established in 1999 as a merger of United Arab Motors Co. and Al-Essayi Trading Corp., it is one of the largest automotive companies in the Saudi market, employing more than 1,200 trained staff in more than 63 branches. 

Arab News spoke exclusively with United Motors Co. sales manager Mohammed Mohsen Al-Amoudi about what types of vehicles Saudi women have been buying from his Jeddah lot, their color preferences and the appeal factor that larger cars have for women. 

“Now that women are allowed to drive in the Kingdom, there is a demand for exclusive offers and packages exclusively geared toward women that have been highly successful for us. We’ve had consistent record-setting months in sales since September. For example, last Ramadan we did not exceed
1 percent in sales for women, while this Ramadan it has jumped by
25 percent. The demand has shifted from women clients buying a car for their driver to buying a car for personal use, and we have found them to be just as concerned as men when it comes to the fine details on safety measures, fuel mileage and customized options.” 

As far as what vehicle models and color preferences women have, Al-Amoudi said that the market has been overwhelmingly lopsided in favor of larger cars.

“While we have all options available, from elegant and classic selections like our Alfa Romeo, Chryslers and Fiats to our sportier options in our Chargers and Challengers, we have seen the most spike in sales with our Jeep Wrangler. Just last week we sold four cars, all to women, and all were Wranglers.”

On color preference, Al-Amoudi said: “What we have noticed is that women have been requesting unconventional colors. Unfortunately, at the moment most dealerships mainly carry the generic solid colors of black, blue, white, and silver, but we are more than happy to order customized colors to accommodate their preferences.”

With June 24 a mere day away, it’s clear that Saudi women are not the only ones preparing for this big moment. Soon women will be driving on every Saudi road, but don’t expect to spot them strictly by their vehicle choice or color.

“What do women want?” ask marketers. Well, maybe a clue can be found in the popularity of Jeeps. They are tough, secure and highly resistant to extreme conditions. How fittingly appropriate. No argument here.