Saudi authorities react to smokers’ complaints about cigarette quality

Saudi Food and Drug Authority examines all shipments arriving in the Kingdom to ensure they adhere to regulations. (Shutterstock/File)
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Updated 14 December 2019

Saudi authorities react to smokers’ complaints about cigarette quality

  • Lab tests underway to check for ‘manipulation of ingredients’

JEDDAH: Since the implementation of the law regarding “plain packaging” on cigarettes in Saudi Arabia on August 23 this year, a number of smokers have reportedly complained to the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) about a perceived difference in the quality of the cigarettes inside that packaging.

The complaints have been filed despite the manufacturers’ insistence that there has been no change to their actual cigarettes, only to the packaging, and the SFDA’s confirmation that it examines all shipments arriving in the Kingdom to ensure they adhere to regulations.

The SFDA and the Ministry of Commerce have contacted cigarette companies and requested an explanation for the complaints. 

The companies say they have only changed the packaging to abide by new regulations set by the World Health Organization, which have been implemented by Saudi Arabia.

The SFDA and the Ministry of Commerce have asked tobacco companies to provide information about the ingredients of their cigarettes, the origin of the ingredients and the countries in which they are produced and packed.

The companies have also been ordered to conduct taste tests and to provide an explanation to consumers about the alleged change in taste.

The SFDA has sent seven samples to product-testing lab Eurofins to see if there has been any change in the quality of cigarettes over the past two years. The results will be released once received. If there has been any “manipulation of ingredients,” authorities say, the companies will face disciplinary measures.

Tobacco giant Philip Morris International released a statement on its Twitter account, saying: “Our cigarettes distributed in Saudi Arabia are authentic and in line with the Saudi plain packaging regulation.”

Similarly, British American Tobacco in Middle East noted that it complies with all laws, regulations and standards within all countries in which it sells its products. 

Haifa Esshi, a consultant who helps smokers quit the habit, said that smoking is on the increase in Saudi Arabia. 

Around 20 percent of the Kingdom’s male population smoke, she said, adding that while there are no official figures available, she believes that more women are smoking in Saudi Arabia than ever before.


24-hour curfew in Riyadh, Jeddah and other cities

Updated 07 April 2020

24-hour curfew in Riyadh, Jeddah and other cities

  • 15 govt bodies work together to repatriate Saudis abroad
  • The 24-hour curfew will be applied for the first time in the cities of Riyadh, Tabuk, Dammam, Dhahran and Al-Hofuf

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia placed its capital Riyadh and other major cities under a 24-hour curfew on Monday.

The new curfew applies to the cities of Riyadh, Tabuk, Dammam, Dhahran, Hofuf, and the provinces of Jeddah, Taif, Qatif and Alkhobar, a statement from the Interior Ministry said.
Entry to or exit from those areas will not be allowed, except for vital workers. Residents are allowed to leave their homes for medical or food needs inside their residential area and between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. only.
Fifteen government agencies are coordinating to facilitate the repatriation of Saudi citizens from abroad amid the global outbreak of the coronavirus. During the daily press briefing, Health Ministry spokesman, Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly, said that his ministry was cooperating with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its repatriation operations.
In the Kingdom, the total number of confirmed cases is 2,605 with 203 new cases recorded on Sunday. He said that 551 patients have recovered and 2,016 are still being treated. The number of deaths in the Kingdom stands at 38.
Al-Aly said that updates about COVID-19 in the Kingdom with details of its geographical spread can be found at covid19.moh.gov.sa.
Tourism Ministry spokesman Anas Al-Sulai said: “The Ministry of Tourism has provided over 11,000 hotel rooms to accommodate Saudis returning from abroad, as they will be isolated to ensure their safety,” Al-Sulai said. The operation includes eight electronic services and the involvement of 15 government bodies that are working 24 hours to ensure the completion of the operation safely.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, Naif Al-Otaibi, said that 22,000 environmental sanitation devices and 15,000 cadres are being used to sanitize and control areas.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, the General Directorate of Passports called on all citizens and residents to activate the feature to receive notifications for its services available through the “Absher” application for electronic services on smartphones.
By doing so, users will be able to receive information about the status of their official documents and the dates of their expiry.