Hard Times Ahead for Shisha Smokers in Saudi as Cost May Go Up

Currently Saudi Arabia has the highest rate of smoking in the world; it has already imposed a huge 213 percent duty on cigarettes and other consumable tobaccos.

SAEED HAIDER — As the world community gets ready to observe the World No Tobacco Day on May 31, Shisha smokers around the Kingdom are in for some bad news and they will face further pinch to their pockets as cost of Shisha and other forms of tobaccos will go further up at restaurants, coffee shops and other outlets offering Shisha facility to their customers outside and inside the outlets.

Smoking is no longer allowed in the workplace in Saudi Arabia. Violations come with a fine of up to 5,000 riyals ($1,333).

The Council of Ministers recently approved a new licensing regulation under which a levy of up to SAR100,000 a year will be applicable on retail outlets like restaurants and coffee shops that are selling “tobacco products”  inside and outside their premises.

The decision is part of the government’s 2030 vision under which the country has to be made nearly smoking-free nation.

Unfortunately, currently Saudi Arabia has the highest rate of smoking in the world. The government has taken several tough measures to curb the habit among its citizen. The country has already imposed a huge 213 percent duty on cigarettes and other consumable tobaccos at local shelves.

The worldwide market for Hookah (Shisha) Tobacco is expected to grow at a CAGR of roughly 9.1% over the next five years, will reach US$3.23 billion in 2023, from US$1.92 billion in 2017, according to a new GIR (Global Info Research) study. The high-end products mainly come from USA and Europe.

Initially the effect was noticed and a a sharp decline was noticed but soon the addiction got better of cost. It was observed that the youth were more vulnerable to succumb to this deadly habit. After the huge taxation, it was also noticed that their was huge hike in smuggling of cigarettes from neighboring Bahrain and other GCC and Arab countries where cigarettes of various brands were cheaper.

The huge tax also saw arrival of electronic cigarettes in the Kingdom and becoming popular among the youth.

This increased the concern of the government which also launched a massive anti smoking campaign and banned smoking at more public places.

Waterpipe (Shisha) and cigarette smoking are associated with heart attacks at a younger age in Saudi Arabians, reports a study presented at the 30th Annual Conference of the Saudi Heart Association (SHA 30).

The huge levy on Shisha houses and restaurants and cafes selling and offering Shisha is seen as yet another move to curb and eradicate the menace.

Many smokers are grieved over the decision saying that the new tax on outlets will eventually passed on by outlets’ owners on consumers. Restaurant owners agree with smokers concern. “ Obviously we will add it to our cost and include in the consumers’ bill,” said a Shisha house owner in traditional Thuqba area.

More than one in ten Saudi Arabians smoke, starting at an average age of 19, while 9% of smokers start before age 15.

March 2019

Many believe that every restaurant and café  should be licensed to provide this service. The new regulation would also affect places that were not so popular, experts say adding that while there was the danger of a rise in smuggling and other black-market activities  because of the higher costs associated with smoking there also danger of huge spurt in electronic cigarettes and other vaping. Ironically there is a ban on sale of electronic cigarettes and many vaping gadgets but there use in public places is allowed. Social activists and health official strongly believe and advocate a cigarette-like ban on use of electronic cigarette in public places.

There is also small section of people who oppose such recommendation on ground that electronic cigarettes are not hazardous to non smokers unlike tobacco cigarettes which causes heavy health hazards to non smokers. “ Non smokers are prone to be a passive smokers in a tobacco environment but not in the electronic cigarette surroundings since it does not emit carbon mono oxides,” commented a smoker who has recently switched to electronic smoking.

Al-Bilad Daily English Online; Citations by DesPardes & PKonweb