Will the new cigarette price hike smoke out Saudi's nicotine addiction problem?

Published November 15th, 2015 - 01:30 GMT

Cigarette smokers now have to pay more for their puffs. This follows the increase of cigarette prices by 10.5 percent. The move is attributed to the government’s plans to make the Kingdom free of all kinds of tobacco addiction.

Dealers and merchants have expressed their surprise over the sudden rise in cigarette prices without prior notice. One of them said that soon after the news on the price hikes spread, smokers headed to various outlets to buy cigarettes and stock them. The price of a new pack of cigarettes is increased to SR10 from SR9 before.

Ahmed Albualli, chairman of the supervisory board at the Anti-Smoking Society (Naqaa), said in a statement to local media that raising the prices of cigarettes is something desirable. He said the price hikes will mostly affect the working class and hoped that this will make them kick the habit.

“The Kingdom spends SR12 billion to treat the smokers whose numbers have swollen to 6 million, both male and female. Smoking kills 72 people a day here in the country, and 23,000 a year,” said Albualli.

He said raising the prices of tobacco is not the society’s goal, adding: “Our goal is to enact laws and regulations that ban on selling cigarettes at food stores and groceries. Cigarettes should be sold in separate outlets located on the terminals of cities, in secluded places.”

He called on the relevant bodies to join efforts and work against smoking, and activate the anti-smoking law in universities, and ban selling cigarettes to children less than 18 years of age.

He lamented the fact that some shops and groceries sell cigarettes in retail in ones and twos, or more.

“Recent surveys found out that 27 percent of the youth who smoke in high school began smoking in the elementary study level.

In this context, he urged the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Education to intensify awareness campaigns to educate the children on the hazards of smoking, with the collaboration and coordination of Naqaa or any other society working in the anti-smoking field.

He added: “The country consumes 99 tons of tobacco annually, spending more than SR 33 billion. About 45 percent of the males over 15 years of age are smokers, against 3 percent of the females. In 1428 the Kingdom’s population consumed 13 billion cigarettes.”

Meanwhile, activists on social media site Twitter launched hash tag #20rials the cigarette, with variable reactions, some demanding a ban on cigarette sales and others objecting to increased prices asserting that smoking is entirely personal.

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