Minister of Health Dr. Osama Shobokshi, in a speech today marking the international anti-smoking day (May 31), praised the great efforts being exerted by the government of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd Ibn Abdul Aziz and Crown Prince Abdullah Ibn Abdul Aziz to fight smoking and raise the awareness of the citizens and residents of the Kingdom to its dangers. Dr. Shobokshi stated that the Kingdom is a leader in paying attention to this matter, both locally and globally. In May of 1978, Saudi Arabia presented a memo to the World Health Organization (WHO) during its 31st session in Geneva requesting that the agenda include the health hazards caused by smoking. At the domestic level, a number of royal decrees have been issued to curb smoking, including a ban on smoking in all government offices and state-run establishments, and prohibition of all advertising for smoking in the local media. In addition, a non-profit organization for combating smoking which was established in 1982 now has 43 clinics.
Recently, a decree was issued to the effect that customs on tobacco products would increase to 50 percent from 30 percent, and now, starting from July 1, 1997, this tax will be 70 percent in all GCC states. The GCC Health Ministers have also adopted a resolution to lower the maximum level of nicotine in imported cigarettes to 0.6 mg instead of 0.8 mg, and of tar to 0.8 mg instead of 1.0 mg.
Dr. Shobokshi urged all health officials to abide strictly to the regulations banning smoking in workplaces, and exhorted writers and journalists to contribute to the anti-smoking campaigns.