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.

It was Russia, not Saudi Arabia, that pulled out of OPEC+ deal: Saudi ministers

Updated 04 April 2020

It was Russia, not Saudi Arabia, that pulled out of OPEC+ deal: Saudi ministers

  • Saudi foreign and energy ministers say Moscow's claim that Kingdom withdrew from the OPEC+ deal was unfounded
  • They said it was Russia that abandoned the agreement, leading to a collapse in world oil prices

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's foreign and energy ministers on Saturday denied Russia's claim that the Kingdom abandoned the OPEC+ deal, leading to a collapse in world oil prices.

In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said "a statement attributed to one of the media of President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation claimed that one of the reasons for the decline in oil prices was the Kingdom's withdrawal from the deal of OPEC + and that the Kingdom was planning to get rid of shale oil producers."

"The minister affirmed that what was mentioned is fully devoid of truth and that the withdrawal of the Kingdom from the agreement is not correct," the statement said.

In fact Saudi Arabia and 22 other countries tried to persuade Russia to make further cuts and extend the deal, but Russia did not agree, it said.

Prince Farhan expressed surprise that Russia had to resort to "falsifying facts" when Saudi Arabia's stance on shale oil production is known, the statement said.

He pointed out that Saudi Arabia is one of the main investors in the energy sector in United States, implying that there is no reason for the Kingdom "to get rid of shale oil producers" as Russia has claimed.

He further said the Kingdom "is also seeking to reach more cuts and achieve oil market equilibrium for the interest of shale oil producers."

OPEC+ refers to the cooperation between members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC oil producers. The cooperation deal which called for cuts in production by the producers was meant to stabilize oil prices. 

In a separate statement, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman rejected Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak’s similar claim that the Kingdom refused to extend the OPEC+ deal and withdrew from it.

Novak "was the first to declare to the media that all the participating countries are absolved of their commitments starting from the first of April," Prince Abdulaziz said in a statement.

He said Novak's statement led other countries to decide "to raise their production to offset the lower prices and compensate for their loss of returns." 

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia called for an urgent meeting of oil exporters after US President Donald Trump said he expected the Kingdom and Russia to cut production by 10-15 million barrels per day.

Prince Farhan said he was "hoping that Russia would take the right decisions in the urgent meeting" so that a "fair agreement that restores the desired balance of oil markets" could be achieved.

The global oil market has crashed, with prices falling to $34 a barrel from $65 at the beginning of the year, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Fuel demand has dropped by roughly a third, or 30 million barrels per day, as billions of people worldwide restrict their movements.

A global deal to reduce production by as much as 10 million to 15 million barrels per day would require participation from nations that do not exert state control over output, including the United States, now the world’s largest producer of crude.

A meeting of OPEC and allies such as Russia has been scheduled for April 6, but details were thin on the exact distribution of production cuts. No time has yet been set for the meeting, OPEC sources said.