Shisha shops not included in under-18 tobacco ban

Hookah stores, cafes and restaurants in Saudi are not touched upon by a recent ban established by the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs banning the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 18, a Ministry of Health official informed.

Shisha smoking

A girl exhaling shisha smoke

Khaled Mirghalani, spokesman at the Ministry of Health, as well said that Arab News implementing such a ban in order to eradicate smoking among young people could appear ineffective because of the difficulty of controlling commercial outlets.

He said it is still unclear how stores, particularly small shops, are to be controlled to ensure they are all following the ban.

Mirghalani did not comment on question why hookah was not included in the ban.

Sulaiman bin Hamad Al-Buthe, director general of the Environmental Health Secretariat, said that owners of the stores who will be found to sell tobacco to minors would be fined SR 500 for each violation.

Ali Al-Zubadi, who is an employee at a shop selling hookah products, said to Arab News that he did not know about the ban, stating he was never informed about such a ban.

He added that he did not know that they could not sell shisha products to underage customers as they have not received any new information pointing this from the ministries.

He said that it is a frequent experience that they sell various hookah flavors and products to adult people and youth who come to the shop to buy those products.

Mohammed Eyosh, an employee at another shisha shop, said that he was afraid of new ban on selling tobacco products to teens because as the tourist season is that when the sales increase at least 20 to 25 percent.

He added he was relieved when he did not get a ministry notification and when owners of other shops said that hookah shops, cafes and restaurants were not included.

It is still unclear why shisha is not included in the ban.

According to the World Health Organization report, smoking hookah or cigarettes has the same harmful effect.

The report explained that smoking shisha may last 60 to 80 minutes and that is why the smoker may be exposed to as much smoke as a person uninterruptedly inhales from 100 cigarettes.

As well, the WHO found that water does not sufficiently remove all toxic substances such as carbon monoxide and nicotine, exposing smokers to danger from heart, brain and respiratory illnesses.

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