Smokers say Saudi price hike unlikely to make them kick habit

The high cost of treating the consequences of consuming tobacco products is among the reasons why the tax is being imposed.
Updated 30 May 2017

Smokers say Saudi price hike unlikely to make them kick habit

JEDDAH: The price of a pack of cigarettes in Saudi Arabia will double when a selective tax becomes effective June 11. The move will put a financial strain on smokers, but it may not necessarily lead them to quit smoking.
“The government’s decision to impose a tax on tobacco means that soon we will have to pay double for a pack of cigarettes, but the price hike is unlikely to make longtime smokers kick the habit,” IT expert Ahmad Al-Juhaini told Arab News.
Many smokers like Al-Juhaini agree that smoking is a bad habit, yet they find themselves “helpless against the addiction,” as he puts it. “We may only reduce the number of cigarettes we smoke on a daily basis. It’s not easy to just switch brands,” he said adding that he believes that the increase in prices “will definitely deter youngsters from taking up smoking.”
Like Al-Juhaini, 24-year-old Bedour, who started smoking three years ago, said her smoking habits will not change following the price hike. She now pays SR12 for a cigarette pack and is willing to pay SR24 in two weeks. “I didn’t start smoking because it was cheap in the first place and I wouldn’t quit now because the prices have doubled,” Bedour, a lawyer, said, adding that she will continue to purchase the same brand despite the price hike.
Selective tax will be imposed at 100 percent on tobacco and 50 percent on soft and energy drinks, which are high in sugar. The General Authority of Zakat and Tax (GAZT) said that the “selection” entails health-damaging products, as well as products that are harmful for the environment and complementary goods.
According to its official website, GAZT lists health problems due to the increase in consumption of unhealthy goods and the expenses that individuals and the government bear in treating the consequences of consuming these products among the reasons why the tax is being imposed.
Other reasons are the Kingdom’s tax policy reforms agreements with the other Gulf states and the commitments to the regional and international conventions signed to control the consumption of harmful goods by adjusting taxes and banning the promotion of these products as well as prohibiting smoking in public spaces.
Cigarette pack prices in Saudi Arabia are almost mid-range compared to other countries around the world. According to Numbeo, a crowd-sourced global database of reported consumer prices, the Kingdom is 64th out of 127 countries in the price ranking of a cigarettes with a pack by one of the major brands costing around $3.20.
The Secretariat General of the Gulf Cooperation Council received on May 23 two instruments of ratification of the unified tax treaty from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), concerning value added tax (VAT) and selective tax, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) has reported.
This makes the unified tax treaty in the GCC effective.
“The UAE is the second country to deposit two instruments of ratification to the Secretariat General of the Gulf Cooperation Council and as per the treaty, the submission of a second country makes activates the treaty,” SPA quoted the secretariat. The VAT will be implemented in the GCC on Jan. 1.


Masoud Al-Qahtani, assistant professor at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah

Updated 22 February 2020

Masoud Al-Qahtani, assistant professor at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah

Masoud Al-Qahtani is an assistant professor in the dean’s office division of the deanship of student affairs at King Abdul Aziz University (KAU) in Jeddah.

He received a doctorate in the Qur’an and the Sunnah and its sciences from the College of Da’wah and Fundamentals of Religion at Makkah’s Umm Al-Qura University.

Al-Qahtani was a public educator between 1992 and 1996, a lecturer at Jeddah’s Teachers College between 1996 and 2001, the undersecretary of Jeddah’s Teachers College for educational affairs between 2003 and 2008, undersecretary of the same college between 2004 and 2007, and undersecretary of KAU’s College of Education between 2009 and 2010.

He has been an assistant professor at the department of Islamic studies of the College of Education at KAU since 2001 and dean of student affairs since June 2018. 

He is also the vice dean of KAU’s student affairs for cultural and social activities.  

KAU recently received the UN’s “Zero Project Award” at the UN’s headquarters in Vienna for an initiative focusing on disabled students and their learning and movement on campus.

The ceremony was attended by KAU’s vice president for educational affairs, Dr. Abdul Moneim bin Abdul Salam Al-Hayani, Al-Qahtani and others.  

KAU is the Kingdom’s first educational institution to win this award. The project’s current session featured 469 initiatives from 106 countries, from which around 80 were chosen based on the following criteria: Innovation, influence, scalability and development.