Saudi Arabia: Don’t Keep Us From Smoking

saudi smoking

Despite efforts of the Ministry of Health, Saudi Arabia remains a country where smoking cigarettes is prevalent.  In 2006, Dr. Abdullah Al-Baddah, the Ministry’s anti-smoking chief, said that Saudis inhale 40,000 tons of tobacco smoke annually in 15 billion cigarettes. He pointed out that Saudi Arabia ranks 23rd in the world for the percentage of its population that smokes.  This is in spite of a royal decree issued to ban smoking in all government institutions and buildings.  The only time one will truly observe a noticeable absence of men smoking cigarettes is during the holy month of Ramadan.  Why is it that many men can forsake from smoking during one month each year but once Ramadan has finished, return back to the smoking habit?

Anti-smoking clinics have been opened in various cities in the Kingdom as part of the Health Ministry’s efforts to encourage smokers to give up the bad habit. The ministry regularly organizes public programs that aim at creating awareness among Saudis and residents of the hazards smoking causes to a person’s health.  In June 2009, Purity, a local Saudi charity, launched an innovative anti-smoking campaign.  Due to the high costs associated with marriage, Purity initiated its program with the catchy incentive “Kicking the habit is on you, and marriage is on us,” meant to entice young grooms to give up smoking.  Purity’s aim is to create a smoke-free family as one-third of Saudi school children live in homes with smokers, according to a 2007 health survey.

In spite of the initiatives to refrain from smoking in Saudi Arabia, one inevitably will smell the scent of cigarette smoke in restaurants as not all restaurants in Saudi will have smoking and non-smoking sections.  It is also common to see men smoking while strolling within the malls or the more localized souks.  Some office buildings and Ministries have no-smoking policies within the facilities but those who smoke will find their way.  If a man has his own office, he’ll usually just close the door and enjoy a cigarette or gather somewhere with other colleagues who also enjoy smoking.

No_Smoking_on_AircraftEven on the last Saudi Airlines flight that I flew from Riyadh to Washington, I smelled the scent of cigarette smoke emanating from the cockpit from my own seat in the upper deck of the aircraft.  This is in spite of Saudi Airlines own ban of no smoking on its flights.

And I attended a Saudi sponsored function last month which was hosted at a five-star hotel in the USA.  The city has a non-smoking ban inside of public places.  So ironically there were a large group of Saudis and other Arabs gathered outside of the hotel rather than inside where the main reception was taking place so they could enjoy chatting and smoking their cigarettes.

22 Responses

  1. There is a lot of smoking in Syria too. In Halab ( Aleppo), I was stuck in a taxi with 3 men who were smoking at the same time. I was so sick and had such a bad headache that I had to lay down for several hours.

  2. Exchange Saudi with Bahrain and youve got the exact same thing going on there….and when security or anyone informs they are “breaking the law” so please put the cigarette out or go outside…they get extremely upset and insist to keep smoking…and usually informing the security guard etc that they ARE Bahraini by God and who will stop them…

    Let them choke on their smokes far as Im concerned but the laws should be enforced and stiffer penalties imposed.

  3. Smokers are everywhere and have the same habits, not only in Saudi Arabia. It depends on how law people are enforcing the law. However, smokers are addicted, it is really hard to just let them give up easily.

  4. This goes back to that of it being a man’s world here and no one will tell THEM what to do… Rather, perhaps, it’s like my father’s generation in the states..
    .”Do as I SAY, not as I DO.”

  5. Some smokers are Selfish and Ignorant individuals. They have the capabilities to act like they have the right to support their addictions “or habit as they claim”. Their focus sometimes is directed toward fulfilling their addiction regardless of the aftermath.

    On the other hand, the remaining individuals are more considerate and know that they have to respect others and obey the law.

    To make every one respect the law, just show that you are forcing it on everyone, everywhere and anytime. Anyone lights up where he should not be, get punished and his name or his face shall be shown in the newspapers next to his guilt. Arabs in general are very very careful about being publicized.

    Ps: I smoked for 23 years and just quit weeks ago.

  6. I HATE smoking.


    If they mention “by God” then they should be told that more and more scholars are properly seeing smoking as something that is “haram”. Not only is there nothing positive about smoking, it endangers your health and those around you, nevermind being a complete waste of money that could and should go to something better.

    Even those scholars that dont find smoking haram, the majority find it “makrooh” (undesireable).

    I say to those that want to spend money to kill themselves, that they should give their money to me and jump in front of a bus instead. At least by jumping in front of a bus they dont waste hundreds of thousands in medical bills that they’ll never pay and they dont give lung cancer to their children and those around them.

  7. I would defenitely say it’s haraam.
    Smoking is suicide and suicide is haraam
    Smoking also kills those around you and killing is haraam.

    I think smoking around children, or anybody who doesn’t smoke is abuse.

    ”Smokers please don’t exhale” is a message you used to see in Dutch public places.
    If only they would!

  8. While I loved visiting Syria and found the people wonderful, the prevalence of public smoking was something I greatly disliked about that country. And I live in NC where we grow a lot of tobacco. Still doesn’t mean I like inhaling YOUR tobacco smoke.

  9. @Aafke,

    I agree with you about it being abuse, smoking around children. Both my parents smoked and not only was it physically/medically abusive, it was psychological as well. I’d go to school every day smelling like an ashtray and there was nothing I could do about it.

    I think smoking in public should be completely banned under any circumstances and people with kids under the age of 18 should be forbidden to smoke at home.

  10. I also continually smelled cigarette smoke on my flight this summer from Riyadh to Washington on Saudia. I even smelled a smoldering smoke smell in the lavatory trash. I alerted a flight attendant and he swished through it and found the cigarrette and it had browned the tissues around it. I said, “Aren’t you going to put water on it?” and he replied, “It’s already out.” He was so nonchalant about the whole thing. I had even talked to 2 other flight attendants, when I smelled smoking, and they never did anything about it. It really made for an unpleasant flight with the odor and worrying about a possible fire. I don’t want to fly that airline again.

  11. Carol, they didn’t give up smoking for a month, they just gave up smoking during daylight hours for a month. Big difference. I once had a friend that would quit smoking for a week or so while he had a cold and then go right back to smoking when he got over the cold. I could never understand that.

  12. What galls me the most is – pregnant smokers giving up smoking for the duration of their pregnancy plus a few more while nursing initially ( so ~ 1yr) and STARTING back up again. C’mon if you gave it up for i yr,don’t you think you can give it up for ever. Also you thought it was harmful to an unborn foetus but it’s ok once the baby is out !!!! people should realize that once they have a child, they are responsible for it ,why don’t they realise smoking themselves to an early grave doesn’t help the kid . neither does the 2nd hand smoke.
    some people really should NOT be having kids..

  13. I have to agree with all the comments above; nothing disgusts me more than smoking. My parents smoked all while I was growing up and I am positive that is what caused the lung problems that my sister and I both have. It IS child abuse/neglect…what ever you want to call it. And sadly I have to agree with Abu Sinan, NOTHING was worse than going to high school smelling like a cigarette. I am still pissed about that ’til this day.

    Let people do it to themselves if they want to, but to their own children? I’ll never understand it.

  14. Interesting to note that this seems – at least on the surface – to be a male problem here in Saudi. It’s rare to see a Saudi woman smoking…probably thanks to the veil! Are my observations correct? ANyone?

  15. SGIME…women do smoke over here but its very very shameful for them to do so …basically they HIDE it very well (or so they believe) because they will get crucified for it.

    I personally believe smokers should be free to smoke as much as they want wherever they want…as long as they wear a plastic bubble over their heads…keep all that toxic smoke right where it should be…AROUND THEM.

  16. Coolred, yeah, like I said: Smokers, please don’t exhale!

    SGIME… woehahahaha! You just gave me this brilliant vision of smoking under the veil! (Beter not use polyester, bit to flammable!)

  17. @SGIME – I have not observed any Saudi women who smoke cigarettes but I have seen a fair number enjoying the hookah. In my view the hookah is more culturally accepted and in the US it is becoming the new fashion to meet up with friends at the local “Hookah bar” and try out the differing flavors of tobacco. Even our own non-cigarette smoking Aafke has taken a shine to the hookah! (smile)

    @Saudiazm – Mabrook on your success on having stopped smoking.

    I do understand that for those who have smoked for years no matter where they are or who they are, it is not an easy habit to simply stop. And I will share that my father smoked for at least 30 years that I am aware of and my mother about the same. My father did quit cold turkey and had another 20 years smoke free before he passed away. My mother took longer to quit but not before having ephesema.

  18. I only take a few sips!
    I can stop!
    (I put rose water in with the hookah, lovely)

  19. Yes, my biggest grouse is the devil may care attitude of some of these smokers. I care two hoots if they want to kill themselves, but it gives them no right to harm/cause me any injury as a resultant. I have also realised and its indeed surprising that most often than not that the children of chain smoking parents usually end up being non-smokers.
    @sgime/aafke… even i had visions of women in full hijab trying to steal a drag without anyone looking …firestarter!!

  20. good point Rasputin…neither I nor any of my siblings ever smoked.

  21. Carol

    I’m sorry to read about your mothers’ passing away. Maybe you could write a post about her if it isn’t to painful for you. More specifically, about her struggle with emphysema, unless you already have done so. I believe real life experiences have a greater impact on people then just reading cold facts. A very distant relative of mine passed away in his seventies, from what I was told, even the oxygen bottle helped him very little to breath towards the end.

  22. Thank you Marshmellow. You might enjoy reading this post which I had written last year about her:

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