The Ministry of Interior has required provincial governors to introduce a smoking ban in government buildings and other public places. The smoking ban is intended to reduce smoking among rising generation and support Saudi Arabians to look after their health better.
Anti-smoking groups approved Interior Minister Prince Ahmed’s move, but restaurant owners said a smoking ban would put at threat their business.
Shisha smoking in restaurants and cafes, all ministries, government departments, and public establishments as well is included in ban.
The minister said in a statement as they are a Muslim country, it is their obligation to be as a model for adherence to Islamic law, which support people in protection of their health against harmful effects of smoking.
The minister added that it is obligatory to assure the introduction of the smoking ban in government departments and public sector agencies; a smoking ban should include enclosed public places: bars, restaurants, commercial establishments.
Personal sector workers supported the ban, saying many private businesses have already introduced a smoking ban in their buildings.
The smoking ban follows a recommendation in November by the National Committee on Fighting Tobacco to take strict measures to block the sale of tobacco products to minors.
In June, the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs prohibited cigarettes selling to fewer than 18s.
Saudi Arabia is on the fourth place regarding global tobacco imports and consumption.
Saudi Arabians smoke yearly more than 15 billion cigarettes worth $ 168 million, in accordance with the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Prince Ahmed obliged retail dealers not sell tobacco to minors under any circumstances.
Restaurants and café owners say that it would be difficult to introduce the smoking ban as their earnings depend on customers who enjoy shisha.
Municipalities impose a fine on shops that deal with cigarette sale to people under 18 up to SR 500.
The Kingdom is a signatory to the Tobacco Control Treaty launched by the World Health Organization in May 2003.
In accordance with the treaty, health warnings should be placed at least at 30 % of the surface of a cigarette pack.
Ingredients of tobacco products should be named on the packaging.
The agreement as well obliges governments to improve indoor smoking regulation, to impose high taxes on tobacco and create methods to block the sale of black market cigarettes.
Majid Al-Muneef, supervisor general of the anti-smoking department in the Ministry of Health, said the ministry and the Ministry of Education were cooperating in creating an effective awareness program among students in secondary schools.
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