Tobacco imports nearly halved

April 29, 2019

Saudi Gazette report

The imports of tobacco products to Saudi Arabia dropped by 43.1 percent last year to stand at SR1.78 billion compared to the previous year apparently due to the implementation of the excise tax.

In 2017, Saudi Arabia imported cigarettes and tobacco products worth SR3.13 billion, before the decision to levy the selective tax.

According to figures released by the Saudi Customs Authority, the country imported 8,720 tons of tobacco products worth SR500 million during the first quarter of 2019.

In June 2017, the Kingdom started imposing a selective tax of 100 percent on tobacco products and energy drinks and 50 percent on fizzy drinks, the business daily Al-Eqtisadiah reported on Monday.

Saudi Arabia became the first GCC country to levy the selective tax, followed by the UAE and Bahrain.

The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) member states reached a decision to impose selective taxes on items deemed harmful to public health or the environment.

The value of Saudi tobacco imports consistently increased lately due to the imposition of new taxes.

The lion’s share of tobacco imports to the Kingdom came from three countries, Germany, Switzerland and Turkey. The Kingdom imports cigarettes from more than 17 countries.

In addition to the cigarettes, the Kingdom imports tobacco products, such as honeyed tobacco, “jarak”, snuffs and others.

Earlier this month, Minister of Labor and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi issued an order effectively banning smoking in all workplaces and offices in the country.

The decision seeks to strictly implement an existing rule that is part of the Kingdom's anti-smoking law.

Passed in 2015, the legislation aims to "combat smoking by taking all necessary measures at the levels of state, community and individuals."

Its seventh article calls on smoking to be prohibited in both public and private workplaces.

The application of these laws was not strictly implemented and monitored in the past.

In his order, Al-Rajhi stressed that any company that continues to allow smoking in its premises will be held accountable. The decision includes prohibitions on all forms of tobacco use including shisha (hookah).

Punishments that will be implemented against those found to be violating rules will include a fine of up to SR5,000.

The Kingdom has previously taken several steps to curb smoking. In 2016, it started implementing rules passed under the anti-smoking law that banned smoking near mosques and educational, health, sports, cultural, social and charity institutions.

The rules also prohibited smoking outside of smoking zones in business establishments. However, this specific rule was not properly applied in the past few years.

April 29, 2019
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