What you need to know about vaping in Saudi Arabia

What you need to know about vaping in Saudi Arabia
Saudi law forbids the sale of vaping devices.
Updated 03 February 2019

What you need to know about vaping in Saudi Arabia

What you need to know about vaping in Saudi Arabia
  • Using e-cigarettes is allowed, but buying items is not
  • Vapers say regulations would clarify legal haze

RIYADH: While more Saudis are ditching their cigarettes and joining the vaping trend sweeping the world, the laws surrounding the activity in the Kingdom are shrouded in a fruit-scented haze.

There is no explicit law banning vaping in Saudi Arabia, and vapers are free to publicly indulge in the activity — but there are no legal ways to get a vape module, vape juice or any of the equipment needed to vape. 

The Ministry of Commerce and Investment officially banned the sale of all e-cigarette or vaping products in September, 2015.

Saudi law forbids the sale of such items and considers anyone bringing them in from abroad to be smuggling and, therefore, liable to be fined and have the items confiscated.

The sales ban has forced vapers in the Kingdom to seek alternative methods of buying supplies, although the legality of these are doubtful, leaving vapers unsure if they are breaking the law. 

The legal grey area means that people who spoke to Arab News for this article requested anonymity and their names have been changed.

Saudi Arabia has a high smoking rate, even though the practice is considered taboo. The Saudi Diabetes and Endocrine Association estimates the number of smokers is almost 6 million. This is expected to rise to 10 million by 2020, or roughly 30 percent of the population.

Is vaping better for your health than cigarettes? The healthiest way to smoke is to not smoke at all, but vaping is often presented as an alternative to the traditional cigarette. 

Vapes can still deliver a dose of nicotine to the body without the toxins and smoke damage. Nevertheless, vape products on the market come with a warning that is all but identical to those on cigarette packs: Adults only, no health benefits and a significant risk to health.

But vaping is shown to be less damaging overall than cigarettes, according to a long-term study published in the US medical journal “Annals of Internal Medicine.”

“There is almost no doubt that they expose you to fewer toxic chemicals than traditional cigarettes,” according to Dr. Michael Blaha, director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease. “But people need to understand that e-cigarettes are potentially dangerous to your health. You’re exposing yourself to all kinds of chemicals that we don’t yet understand and that are probably not safe.”

Despite this uncertainty, vaping has grown in popularity in Saudi Arabia in the past decade, particularly among the country’s youth. 

Mohammed Idrees, a 35-year-old lawyer from Jeddah, said he took up vaping as a way of quitting his cigarette habit. He uses a Juul, a branded vape mod designed to help wean smokers off cigarettes. “As a bonus, it’s also cheaper than my cigarette habit used to be,” he told Arab News.

Nasser Riyadh, a 24-year-old programmer, said he only vapes occasionally to relieve stress. “I’ve been vaping two or three times a week for about a year,” he said. “It keeps me calm (and) helps me stay sane after a particularly difficult day at work.”

Those who choose to vape risk a run-in with the law to maintain their habit. Saudi Customs has told Twitter users asking about vape shipments that these are forbidden from being brought into or sold in the country.

Idrees, who buys his Juul pods from UK stores, has had shipments confiscated in the past. “At least, I assume they’ve been confiscated. They simply never show up, and I don’t get notified about it. But on the plus side, I don’t get fined either. The shipments I do get are the ones that fly under the radar,” he said.

Adnan Al-Awwad, a 30-year-old photographer from Tabuk, buys his equipment from local online stores. “There are several websites and Instagram accounts that provide everything from mods to liquids to full vape kits,” he said. “And they will deliver everything directly to your house and accept cash on delivery. It’s a method that keeps both buyer and seller anonymous and safe.”

However, most of the merchandise on these sites is illegally sourced. While neighboring countries such as the UAE have adopted similar stances towards vaping — selling the equipment is illegal but using it is fine — others such as Bahrain are more relaxed about vaping. With equipment and accessories easily found, Bahrain is a prime location for smugglers sourcing their goods.

However, under-the-counter sales carry an additional risk in the form of cheaply made and counterfeit products.

Buying counterfeit vape juice landed Abdulrahman Ali, a 29-year-old office worker from Riyadh, in hospital. “I bought a knockoff brand of vape juice and ended up getting a lung infection from it. I’m much more careful now with where I get my products from, and I consider myself something of an expert, but I worry about other people who might not have as much experience,” he said.

Ali, a cigarette smoker since he was 16, vapes as an alternative to smoking. He kicked the cigarette habit years ago and intends to keep it that way. “I don’t care if vaping becomes illegal in Saudi Arabia, I’ll still find ways to do it,” he said. I never want to go back to smoking cigarettes. Vaping is so much better, health-wise, because of the smell and because of the lighter side-effects. And it’s less expensive, too.”

But while some might see vaping as cool, chic or more acceptable than smoking, a negative atmosphere still lingers over vaper culture in Saudi Arabia.

“I don’t represent the community, nor do I consider myself part of it,” Idrees said. “I think a lot of people vaping these days are doing it for the cool factor, and I want to distance myself from that. I smoke out of necessity, as a remedy to an addiction.”

Riyadh agreed that part of his interest in vaping is down to image. “I would say that it’s about 40 percent image, 60 percent necessity,” he said.

Al-Awwad cautioned those interested in taking up vaping just for the image. “If you don’t smoke, or aren’t trying to quit smoking, then vaping isn’t for you,” he said.

Those who spoke to Arab News called for vaping equipment to be regulated in the country. “They will probably do it anyway,” said Al-Awwad. “And with Saudi Arabia’s smoking rate being as high as it is, this could be a lucrative area of investment.”

“Tax it. Double the price. Do whatever you have to do,” Idrees said. “Make it safer for everyone.”

However Alia Al-Mutabaqani, a mother of two, wished all types of smoking could be banned in the country. “It’s a disgusting habit,” she said. “My husband and both my sons do it. Everywhere I go, it’s just clouds of sickly sweet smoke. I want it all gone,” she said.

Decoder

What do vaping devices contain?

 Vaping devices, otherwise known as vape mods, are filled with a mixture of vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol. Vape liquids may or may not contain nicotine, depending on the user’s preference, and are usually flavored. Tiny heaters inside the devices turn the liquid into vapors, which are then inhaled from the mouthpiece, hence the term “vaping.”  Vaping devices can be simple, such as vape pens or e-cigarettes, or more complex, customizable devices such as advanced personal vaporizers.


The ancient caravan route between Taif and Makkah

The ancient caravan route between Taif and Makkah
Updated 07 May 2021

The ancient caravan route between Taif and Makkah

The ancient caravan route between Taif and Makkah
  • Hussein bin Salameh ordered the construction of two paths — one for camels and one for pedestrians — to facilitate the exchange and trade of goods in the Kingdom.

JEDDAH: The ancient stone road known as the “caravan route” linking Taif and Makkah is a cultural legacy of great historical value. It was constructed more than 1,000 years ago and was used regularly by pedestrians up to the 1960s.

At the time the road was built, movement between Taif and Makkah was restricted by Al-Qarah Mountain, researcher Hammad Al-Salimi explained. So Hussein bin Salameh ordered the construction of two paths — one for camels and one for pedestrians — to facilitate the exchange and trade of goods in the Kingdom.

The winding road made it possible to cross the mountain and was a remarkable feat of engineering, considering the limited technology available at the time of its creation.

“The roads were paved with stones, which made them resemble staircases winding between the top of the mountain in Al-Hada, the Karr below Al-Qarah Mountain, Shaddad and then Wadi Noman,” Al-Salimi said, adding that a third road, for cars, was built in the mid-1960s, during the reign of King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud.

Al-Salimi said that the two original paths are “important monuments, which should be preserved and maintained because they are part of the Al-Qarah Mountain system and complement the beautiful image of this mountain.”

Historian and writer Saleh Al-Judi explained that — before cars were common in the Kingdom — people would use the route to travel between the two cities, a journey taking around three days. The passage through the mountain, he said, is around six kilometers. In the middle of the route, he added, is a well-known site called Al-Rukb.

He said the route is mentioned in histories from the fifth Hijri century (1009-1106 CE), which say that it had room for pedestrians and animals alike. Al-Qathami stressed the importance of preserving the road as an historical landmark, as it is an important artery linking Taif and Makkah.


Saudi leaders send condolences to Algerian president over flood victims

Saudi leaders send condolences to Algerian president over flood victims
Updated 06 May 2021

Saudi leaders send condolences to Algerian president over flood victims

Saudi leaders send condolences to Algerian president over flood victims

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Thursday sent a cable of condolences and sympathy to Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune for those killed in torrential rains and floods that hit several Algerian states.
The king said: “We learned of the news of the torrential rains and floods in several Algerian states, and the resulting deaths, and we send to Your Excellency, the families of the deceased, and the Algerian people our warmest condolences and the most sincere sympathy,” Saudi Press Agency reported.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also sent a similar cable to the Algerian president.RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Thursday sent a cable of condolences and sympathy to Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune for those killed in torrential rains and floods that hit several Algerian states.
The king said: “We learned of the news of the torrential rains and floods in several Algerian states, and the resulting deaths, and we send to Your Excellency, the families of the deceased, and the Algerian people our warmest condolences and the most sincere sympathy,” Saudi Press Agency reported.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also sent a similar cable to the Algerian president.


KSrelief chief meets Beninese envoy to Saudi Arabia

KSrelief chief meets Beninese envoy to Saudi Arabia
Updated 06 May 2021

KSrelief chief meets Beninese envoy to Saudi Arabia

KSrelief chief meets Beninese envoy to Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The general supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, met the ambassador of Benin to the Kingdom, Mataero Fadel, in Riyadh on Thursday.

The meeting discussed the development of projects implemented in Benin, and ways to enhance them.

Fadel praised the professional excellence of KSrelief and its service to the needy around the world, especially to groups in Benin, pointing out that the center is a milestone in the field of humanitarian work.

This Ramadan, KSrelief distributed 164 tons of food baskets to thousands of families in Benin, as part of the humanitarian aid provided by the Kingdom, through KSrelief, to friendly countries during the holy month.


Who’s Who: Maram A. Kokandi, general manager of Jeddah’s Park Inn Hotel

Who’s Who: Maram A. Kokandi, general manager of Jeddah’s Park Inn Hotel
Updated 06 May 2021

Who’s Who: Maram A. Kokandi, general manager of Jeddah’s Park Inn Hotel

Who’s Who: Maram A. Kokandi, general manager of Jeddah’s Park Inn Hotel

Maram A. Kokandi has been the general manager of the Jeddah’s Park Inn Hotel since its construction work began in 2017.

The hotel, by Radisson, started operating in Saudi Arabia’s coastal city in September 2020. Kokandi managed the hotel from its construction phase until the time it opened. 

Kokandi obtained a bachelor’s degree in international hospitality management from the Cardiff Metropolitan University in 2015.

Three years earlier, she received a high diploma in international hospitality and international tourism management from the London Metropolitan University, London, UK. In 2010, she attended foundation courses on the same specialties at the Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK.

From August 2015 to February 2017, she served as a senior property consultant at Emaar Middle East, where she provided consultations to clients on property selection based on their needs and budgets. She led a sales team to leverage opportunities and generate new leads. 

For nearly three years and 8 months beginning in April 2011, Kokandi worked as a public relations and marketing manager for the Middle East at the London-based Baha Mar, where she worked on analyzing all sales reports and developing sales strategies to achieve targets.

From April 2008 to September 2010, she was a sales manager at Park Hyatt Hotel, Jeddah, where she was in charge of welcoming and hosting VIP guests.

From March 2007 to March 2008, she served as an area sales manager at Raffles Hotel, Dubai, UAE. For over a year, she worked in Jeddah for the Rosewood Hotels and Resorts as a sales manager.


Saudi crown prince donates SR100 million to charities, pays debts of 150 insolvent prisoners

Saudi crown prince donates SR100 million to charities, pays debts of 150 insolvent prisoners
Updated 06 May 2021

Saudi crown prince donates SR100 million to charities, pays debts of 150 insolvent prisoners

Saudi crown prince donates SR100 million to charities, pays debts of 150 insolvent prisoners
  • SR87 million to be distributed to support 29 charities in all regions of the Kingdom
  • SR13 million will be allocated to paying the debts of more than 150 insolvent prisoners

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is to donate SR100 million ($26.6 million) to charity and paying off debts of those imprisoned for financial crimes, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Thursday.
The sum will be split in two, with SR87 million to be distributed to support 29 charities in all regions of the Kingdom within the next few days, while SR13 million will be allocated to paying the debts of more than 150 insolvent prisoners to be released and returned to their families on Thursday.
The move comes under the umbrella of the Sanad Mohammed Bin Salman Social Enterprise Program to support the charitable services of eight groups, including women’s charitable societies, as well as charities for people with disabilities, cancer care, care of widows and divorcees, orphan care, Down Syndrome, health services, and care of the elderly.
Each association will receive financial support for developmental programs that rely on training, qualification, support and sustainability.
The debts of more than 150 insolvent prisoners will be paid off due to their inability to pay as they are prisoners of special rights, according to specific controls, provided that the amount owed by the prisoner has not been exploited in unlawful matters, and are not involved in criminal cases.
“Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s continued support for non-profit work in the Kingdom reflects his unlimited interest in humanitarian work and supporting all groups of the non-profit sector according to mechanisms and limitations included in the Mohammed bin Salman Charitable Project, which is affiliated with the Sanad Program,” SPA said.
The governance of support for charities is represented through several stages to ensure high efficiency in spending and direct access to the most needy beneficiaries, including studying and evaluating associations’ programs and the extent of benefit achieved to the beneficiaries.
This is done through direct support represented in financial aid, providing equipment and treatment, or through sustainable programs, such as training and rehabilitation courses for orphans, persons with disabilities, children of needy families, and widows and divorcees, to enable them to enter the labor market and find sources of income.
The crown prince provided SR100 million four years ago, benefiting 102,000 beneficiaries including orphans, people with disabilities, cancer patients, the elderly, widows, divorcees, young men and women who are about to marry, and needy families. It was distributed among 70 charitable societies in all regions of the Kingdom, through the Mohammed bin Salman Charitable Project.
Over the past years, the crown prince’s donations have contributed in supporting the charitable sector and improving the services provided, and has aided a large number of beneficiaries.