A Saudi woman is filing for divorce after she saw her husband smoke “secretly” near their home.
“When we got married four years ago, one of her terms was that I do not smoke,” the husband said. “I do smoke, and I managed to hide it from my wife for four years.
Unfortunately, she saw me smoke secretly as I was standing with a neighbour near our home. She became very agitated and insisted on leaving the house and taking the children,” the husband said, quoted by local news site Al Weam.
The wife was eventually driven to the family home in the Red Sea resort of Jeddah by her brother.
Online reactions ranged between full support to the wife for upholding her principles and her wish not to be associated with a smoker and sharp criticism for her for wrecking her family over a cigarette.
“It is her right not to have a husband who smoked, but she cannot destroy her family in a moment of anger,” Sinam posted. “After all the husband smoked outside and did not bother her at home.”
Sarrah, in another online comment, said that the wife had rushed into a decision that would gravely impact the family.
“We understand her anger, but it cannot be grounds for divorce. She should talk with him and remind her of the terms for their marriage,” she posted.
Court data published in January indicated that Saudi women added divorce to the risks and dangers associated with smoking.
According to a report, more than 100 women in the Western city of Madinah have filed for divorce after their husbands refused or were unable to quit smoking.
“Courts in other cities in Saudi Arabia have also accepted cases filed by unhappy wives who wanted a divorce over the issue of smoking,” Okaz daily said. “Attempts by reconciliation committees to keep the spouses have failed to convince the wives who insisted on smoke-free husbands. The issue is now being addressed before the wedding and several young women in Madinah have rejected marriage proposals from men who smoked,” the daily said, citing a report on the status of smoking-related divorces.
The report was prepared based on studies and research on the effects of smoking on marital relations.
The daily said that around 40 per cent of Saudi university graduates flatly rejected to marry husbands who smoked.
The young women attributed their uncompromising decision not to “marry themselves into a smoking home” to health concerns about themselves, their future husbands and their future children.
A Saudi judge last year ruled that women who suffered as a result of their husbands’ smoking were allowed to file for divorce.
In October 2012, Saudi judges set a new trend in the country by using cigarette smoking as a factor in child custody cases.
“A parent could now lose the custody case if he or she is proven to be a smoker,” a legal official said. “Under the emerging trend, the smoking factor is now being treated like the drinking factor and can decide the outcome of the custody case,” he said.
The court would favour non-smoking parents and would factor smoking into custody cases to protect the child from the negative impact of passive smoking.
According to official figures, Saudi Arabia is home to six million smokers, including around 800,000 teenagers, mainly intermediate and high school students, and 600,000 women.
However, expatriates also account for a significant proportion of cigarette consumption in Saudi Arabia despite the increase in the number of awareness campaigns about health risks related to smoking and passive smoking and the adoption of several legislative restrictions.