Saudi Arabia bans selling tobacco to children and smoking around them

Saudi parents welcomed the move, saying it is 'about time' people started acting responsibly

Doctors warn about the dangers of cigarette and shisha smoking. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Saudi Arabia banned the sale of tobacco to teenagers under 18 years old and smoking in areas where children are present, state media reported this week.

Importing and selling toys or candy made to look like cigarettes, or bear images that encourage children to smoke, has also been banned by law.

Saudi parents welcomed the move, saying it is “about time” people started acting responsibly and realise dangers of second-hand smoking.

“I am so relieved as a parent and teacher that the government is forcing adults to quit or at least prevent second-hand smoking and is focused on improving public health,” said Suad Alamri a Saudi teacher living in Jeddah.

“I often see kids as young as 12 years old smoking vape, which also influences their peers. I am glad they won’t have access from now on to these harmful substances,” she added.

The country hopes to reduce tobacco consumption to just 5 per cent by 2030. Saudi Arabia banned smoking in public places such as airports, restaurants, educational institutes and public transport in 2019.

The kingdom has also introduced a tax on tobacco products to curb smoking and raised the price of shisha by 100 per cent. The estimated cost of tobacco consumption will reach SR480 billion ($128 billion) during 2018-2030.

Lina Ali said smoking shisha and cigarettes from a young age is tolerated in Arab societies and these new laws will make the adults reconsider their smoking habits in front of young children.

“Adults often forget they are in the company of babies and young kids. This law will force them to break away from this habit,” Ms Ali, from Lebanon but living in Saudi Arabia said.

The Saudi Ministry of Health has launched Anti-Smoking Clinics meant to facilitate access to therapeutic services and work with healthcare providers to ensure a high-quality service for all beneficiaries and also provide consultations to those who wish to quit smoking via their helpline 937.