No smoke without fire in vaping debate as GCC countries see slow burn on regulations

No smoke without fire in vaping debate as GCC countries see slow burn on regulations
Concerns over at least 7 deaths in the US, seemingly linked to vaping, have led to a series of bans across America. (Shutterstock)
Updated 07 December 2019

No smoke without fire in vaping debate as GCC countries see slow burn on regulations

No smoke without fire in vaping debate as GCC countries see slow burn on regulations
  • Of all the GCC countries, only Saudi Arabia and the UAE have proper laws in place for reduced risk products

RIYADH: Throughout the course of history, nicotine has always been one of humanity’s greatest vices.

A more socially acceptable drug than most, and a religious and moral grey area, people have smoked it, chewed it, applied it to their skin in patches and now they are vaping it.

Vapes fall under the category of reduced risk products (RRPs), items with the potential to cut the dangers associated with smoking. Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, fall into this category, as do vape mods such as Juul devices, Logic vapes, and more.

Vaping is a $14 billion (SR52.5 billion) global industry, and has seen a 46 percent category value growth, according to statistics from Japan Tobacco International (JTI).

But vaping is not necessarily as new as many people might think. The first recorded use of the words “electronic cigarette” appeared in 1930, yet modern vaping as we know it only emerged in the early 2000s. Opinion, however, is still deeply divided about its health merits.

Modhi Al-Ajlan, a cigarette smoker since her early 20s, will be 39 this year. Although she has wanted to quit cigarettes for some time, she is reluctant to try vaping due to the stigma attached to it.

“It’s too new, I don’t think there’s enough long-term research to prove that vaping is healthier than smoking cigarettes. I’ll take my chances with a known enemy rather than leave myself open to the mercy of an unknown one,” she said.

Others, such as Farhan Alalem, disagree. He told Arab News that vaping was much better for him than cigarettes ever were. “I tried quitting cold turkey four or five times. Since I started vaping, I’ve hardly had any cigarettes at all. I don’t ever want to go back, it’s the only thing that’s worked for me.”

The issue remains divisive, even among experts. Concerns over at least seven deaths and 500 hospitalizations in the US, seemingly linked to vaping, have led to a series of bans across America. Several states have already stopped the sale of e-cigarettes and vaping products, and President Donald Trump even commented on the issue, calling for an outright ban of vape products.

FASTFACTS

• With a $14 billion global industry, vaping has seen a 46 percent category value growth.

• Vapes fall under the category of reduced risk products (RRPs), items with the potential to cut the dangers associated with smoking.

• The UK has much stricter laws about advertising cigarettes and other tobacco products.

However, at the 2019 E-Cigarette Summit, held in London last month, multiple speakers reported that the problems the US was facing were due to poor regulations in the country, as well as the illicit manufacturing of vape juice.

Improper regulation is said to contribute to the spread of vape liquids containing unconventional ingredients such as THC, the key psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, or vitamin E acetate, which is harmless if consumed but could be dangerous if inhaled.

However, in the UK and other parts of the world where vaping is much more strictly regulated, no serious side effects have yet been recorded, causing the pro-vaping lobby to hail Britain as an example of how to lead on the issue.

The UK has much stricter laws about advertising cigarettes and other tobacco products, as well as firmer regulations against selling to minors and harsher punishments for those who ignore the rules.

Conversely to the US, where youth smoking has been on a rapid rise, the London Smoking Toolkit Study reported that 5 percent of 16-17-year-olds smoked, compared to 23 percent in 2007.

John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, said: “In England, smoking among adults and children has fallen to record lows. Vaping is not renormalizing smoking, regular e-cigarette use among children remains rare and confined largely to young smokers and ex-smokers, and most e-cigarette users have stopped smoking completely.”

In the Middle East, the whole subject of vaping is a grey area. In Saudi Arabia, for example, vaping is allowed, but vape mods, e-juice, vape liquid, and any other RRPs are not available for sale in official shopping outlets.

According to information sourced from JTI, of all the Gulf states only Saudi Arabia and the UAE currently have proper regulations in place for RRPs. In Bahrain and Kuwait, they are permitted only under the name of “e-shisha,” and in Oman and Qatar they are not regulated at all.

Hadi Sleiman, JTI’s director of corporate affairs and communications in the Middle East, believes that Gulf-state governments should open the door to conversation in order to make the products more accessible to those who would use them, while also keeping them safe.

“Policy-makers need information. If you don’t have an open dialogue, how can you make the best decision for the country?” he said.

However, health experts have at least agreed for the time being that, while they do not recommend smoking of any kind, vaping is a healthier alternative than traditional tobacco smoking.


Saudi king, crown prince congratulate Qatar emir on anniversary of accession

Saudi king, crown prince congratulate Qatar emir on anniversary of accession
Updated 3 min 16 sec ago

Saudi king, crown prince congratulate Qatar emir on anniversary of accession

Saudi king, crown prince congratulate Qatar emir on anniversary of accession

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Thursday sent congratulatory messages to Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, on the occasion of the anniversary of his assumption of power.
The king and crown prince expressed their sincerest congratulations and best wishes of good health and happiness to the Qatari emir, and to the government and people of Qatar further progress and prosperity, Saudi Press Agency reported.


How Saudi women engineers are transforming a male-dominated industrial environment

With a growing number of Saudi women opting for careers in STEM and contrib- uting to a more gender-balanced  work environment, the Kingdom’s industrial sector is leading the way in inclusivity. (Shutterstock)
With a growing number of Saudi women opting for careers in STEM and contrib- uting to a more gender-balanced work environment, the Kingdom’s industrial sector is leading the way in inclusivity. (Shutterstock)
Updated 23 min 52 sec ago

How Saudi women engineers are transforming a male-dominated industrial environment

With a growing number of Saudi women opting for careers in STEM and contrib- uting to a more gender-balanced  work environment, the Kingdom’s industrial sector is leading the way in inclusivity. (Shutterstock)
  • Young Saudis are blazing a trail for MENA women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics
  • To mark International Women in Engineering Day, two Saudis shared their life stories with Arab News

DUBAI: Despite recent progress, women remain a minority in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professions, especially in the Middle East and North Africa.

Nevertheless, with a growing number of Saudi women opting for careers in STEM and contributing to a more gender-balanced work environment, the Kingdom’s industrial sector is leading the way in inclusivity.

Razan Alraddadi, a development specialist at Amaala — one of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 megaprojects planned on the Red Sea coast — and Ruaa Mahmoud, a graduate consultant at WSP Middle East — a leading professional-services consultancy — are among a new crop of Saudis blazing a trail for women in STEM.

“Like most engineering students, I was good at maths and I loved problem solving,” Alraddadi said during a recent podcast titled “Engineering role models for a more diverse future,” hosted by WSP and Amaala.

Razan Alraddadi (L) is a development specialist at Amaala and Ruaa Mahmoud (R) is a graduate consultant at WSP Middle East. (Supplied)

“I was a creative child growing up. I was solving everything that was broken around the house. My father noticed that and said he thought I’d make a good engineer and the first woman engineer in our family.”

The podcast was broadcast to mark International Women in Engineering Day, which this year took place on June 23. The objective was to raise the profile of women in engineering professions and focus attention on the career opportunities available to aspiring technologists.

Alraddadi recalled the first year of her scholarship at the University of Washington in 2014, where she found women significantly underrepresented in engineering courses.

But after listening to a female electrical engineer from NASA sharing her experiences during a panel discussion led by the Society of Women Engineers, she was filled with inspiration.

A rendering of Amaala, on the Red Sea coast, where Razan Alraddadi works as a development specialist. Amaala will be an ultra-luxurious international destination, and one of Saudi Arabia’s key Vision 2030 megaprojects. (Supplied/Amaala)

“It wasn’t until that moment that I saw another woman in engineering excelling. At that moment, I had the confidence needed to continue my career in engineering,” said Alraddadi.

“Since that day, it has been an amazing experience joining Amaala as an engineer, and I’m surrounded by an amazing team of engineers in a very inclusive and very good environment for women and engineering.”

For Mahmoud, the turning point came after she saw the 2006 American drama “The Astronaut Farmer,” in which a Texas ranger constructs a rocket in his barn in order to launch himself into space.

The movie sparked her interest in astrophysics and aeronautic engineering, and taught her that anything is possible with grit and determination — even visiting outer space.

WSP provides opportunities for young Saudis working in STEM, and Saudi women are at the forefront of delivering Vision 2030. (Supplied/WSP)

“As a child, I felt like it was realistic and, growing up, I continued to feel that I’d get there,” she said.

“That’s what actually encouraged me to choose electrical and computer engineering — whatever would get me to work on spacecraft, autonomous systems or robotics that would help astronauts or help me get to the International Space Station and assist that vision of going into space.”

Both women recall forming a strong bond and a common sense of mission with the other women on their undergraduate engineering courses.

“You kind of formed this squad or this sisterhood-like group where we thought, ‘OK, we can conquer the world’,” Mahmoud said.

Although racked with self-doubt when she first arrived at university, Alraddadi soon found a support network that gave her the encouragement she needed throughout her studies. “That’s when I knew engineering was such a good major and career path,” she said.

Women in STEM

* June 23 has been designated International Women in Engineering Day.

* 8% - Female enrolment in engineering, manufacturing and construction courses worldwide in 2018 (UNESCO).

According to 2018 figures from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, just 28.8 percent of the world’s researchers are women.

Female enrollment in engineering, manufacturing and construction courses stand at just 8 percent worldwide, while in natural sciences, mathematics and statistics, it is even lower — 5 percent. For information and communications technology, the figure drops to a paltry 3 percent.

In the Middle East, women now account for almost half of the total STEM student population.

And although 38 percent of Saudi graduates in the field are women, only 17 percent of them work in STEM sectors.

Women such as Mahmoud and Alraddadi are defying that trend. After studying abroad, they both chose to return to the Kingdom to launch their careers.

In the Middle East, women now account for almost half of the total STEM student population, reflecting the societal reforms for women in Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)

Alraddadi said: “I chose to come back to be around my family in my home country, working on a very big project that will potentially be revolutionary in Saudi Arabia’s history. So, definitely having those opportunities back home influenced my decision and made me so excited and proud to be back in Saudi Arabia.”

Providing graduate programs for both genders, such as the one hosted by WSP Middle East, is seen as a vital first step to attracting more female engineers to the industry and students into these fields.

But based on Mahmoud’s experience, gender stereotypes and cultural norms concerning the role of women in vocations traditionally dominated by men persist in the Middle East in general, and in the Kingdom in particular.

“I’ve been told that numerous times, and I’ve had friends who’ve been told that as well,” she said. “We need to break that barrier down and just talk with our community, our people, friends and family about how it’s normal for women in engineering to pursue such fields or to pursue such jobs.”

For Alraddadi, who has been working with Amaala for nine months, engineering could be made more attractive as a career path for women if their work, projects and lives were properly highlighted.

“I also believe in graduate programs that will take you and train you as an engineer after you graduate,” she said.

“That would make you feel like engineering is a really good profession in a place you’d benefit from.”

For Alraddadi, who has been working with Amaala (pictured) for nine months, engineering could be made more attractive as a career path for women if their work, projects and lives were properly highlighted. (Supplied/Amaala)

Working in the industry has helped both women advance personally and professionally. Alraddadi said: “As I continue to grow in my career, I’ll learn more and get more involved. It’s a learning process every day, and I feel like every day I’m discovering something new that I want to learn so much.”

Mahmoud believes working in the industry, as opposed to merely studying engineering, has provided her with a much broader view of the avenues open to her.

“Working at WSP, I’ve learned things that I wouldn’t otherwise have known, especially in construction, like electrical engineering,” she said.Globally, although women in STEM fields tend to have higher salaries than those in non-STEM fields, there still exists a gender pay gap in STEM professions.

Women in these professions also have higher rates of attrition than both their male counterparts and women in other non-STEM professions.

Even so, as noted by Shona Wood, the Gender Balance Steering Committee representative and head of integrated project delivery and architecture at WSP Middle East, the traditionally male-dominated industrial environment is undergoing a transformation as more and more women discover the rewards of a career in engineering.

“However, we all have a part to play in nurturing the development and pathways of future engineers,” she told podcast listeners.

“The key to this will be ensuring all industry professionals — both male and female — unite to empower our female youth by being bold allies and ensuring their voices are heard as they navigate the road to a more diverse future.”

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Twitter: @CalineMalek


Saudi, Azerbaijani foreign ministers hold talks in Riyadh

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan receives his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov in Riyadh. (SPA)
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan receives his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov in Riyadh. (SPA)
Updated 46 min 3 sec ago

Saudi, Azerbaijani foreign ministers hold talks in Riyadh

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan receives his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov in Riyadh. (SPA)
  • They discussed strengthening coordination frameworks on issues of common concern

RIYADH: Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan held talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov, and his accompanying delegation, at his office at the ministry’s headquarters in Riyadh on Thursday.
During the meeting, they discussed ways of strengthening bilateral relations and enhancing coordination frameworks on issues of common concern, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.
They also reviewed regional and international developments and efforts made toward them.


Saudi Arabia records 14 COVID-19 deaths, 1,255 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 14 COVID-19 deaths, 1,255 new cases
Updated 24 June 2021

Saudi Arabia records 14 COVID-19 deaths, 1,255 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 14 COVID-19 deaths, 1,255 new cases
  • The Kingdom said 1,247 new cases reported and 920 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • 17 mosques reopened in 5 regions after temporarily evacuating and sterilizing them after 17 people tested positive for coronavirus

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia confirmed 14 new COVID-19 related deaths on Thursday, raising the total number of fatalities to 7,730.
The Ministry of Health reported 1,255 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 479,390 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 11,322 remain active and 1,451 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in Makkah with 340, followed by the Eastern Province with 282, the capital Riyadh with 203, Asir recorded 156, and Jazan confirmed 81 cases.
The health ministry also announced that 1,247 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 460,338.

The ministry renewed its call on the public to register to receive the vaccine, and adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs reopened 17 mosques in five regions after temporarily evacuating and sterilizing them after 17 people tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of mosques closed and reopened after being sterilized to 1,653 within 138 days.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 180 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.90 million.


Saudi minister concludes Kingdom’s participation in G20 Labor and Employment Ministers’ meetings in Italy

Saudi minister concludes Kingdom’s participation in G20 Labor and Employment Ministers’ meetings in Italy
Updated 24 June 2021

Saudi minister concludes Kingdom’s participation in G20 Labor and Employment Ministers’ meetings in Italy

Saudi minister concludes Kingdom’s participation in G20 Labor and Employment Ministers’ meetings in Italy
  • Al-Rajhi said Saudi Arabia has shown tremendous progress in achieving gender participation gap target agreed at the Brisbane summit
  • He called for the need to properly classify workers to ensure their rights

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, Ahmed bin Suleiman Al-Rajhi, concluded on Wednesday the Kingdom’s participation in the G20 Labor and Employment Ministers’ Meeting in Rome, the ministry said.
His participation came as part of the Kingdom’s support for Italy, which holds the rotating G20 presidency, as a member of the Tripartite Committee (troika) for the current year. The Troika is represented by the country that holds the presidency, its predecessor (Saudi Arabia), and its successor (Indonesia) and works to ensure continuity within the G20.
The program included a joint meeting with the education ministers of member states to discuss issues related to supporting efforts to facilitate the transition of young graduates to the labor market, whereby they reached an agreement after holding an independent session and issued a joint statement.

Al-Rajhi delivered a speech in which he said: “Saudi Arabia commends the Italian presidency for adopting priorities that promote women’s employment, gender equality in the labor market, work patterns in the era of digitization, and social protection systems that ensure efforts from the previous presidency continue. These areas are of great importance in the field of public policy for each of the G20 countries and the world.”
He called for the continuity of work on the G20 Youth Roadmap 2025 approved by the ministers during the Kingdom’s presidency last year, and said that some important issues, such as those related to women and gender equality in the labor market, provide the opportunity to make tangible progress in previous ministerial commitments.
He said that Saudi Arabia has shown tremendous progress in achieving gender participation gap target agreed at the Brisbane summit.

“Based on data from 2014 to 2020, for Saudi nationals in the labor market, we have exceeded the Brisbane target with a gap reduction of 27 percent, where in 2016, the National Transformation Program set a goal to increase women’s participation to 30 percent by 2030, and this goal has been exceeded with the achievement level reaching 33.2 percent by 2020, which confirms that the Kingdom has made progress by surpassing targets that were very ambitious and challenging,” he added.
Al-Rajhi siad that the current labor market is highly affected by global trends, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, and witnessed a significant acceleration in the use of modern technologies, including artificial intelligence, even in the most traditional business models.
He called for the need to properly classify workers to ensure their rights with regard to wages, occupational health and safety, and working hours, in addition to their access to adequate social protection.
Al-Rajhi headed the ministry’s delegation to the G20 ministerial meetings, which kicked off on Monday in Catania, and included Dr. Ahmed Al-Zahrani, undersecretary for labor affairs and head of the employment group for the Saudi side in the Tripartite Committee, as well as Undersecretary for International Affairs Dr. Adnan Al-Naim.