Smokers in Saudi Arabia consume 55,992 tons of tobacco products worth 3.4B riyals in 2012 despite nation's efforts to decrease smoking by increasing import tariffs on certain tobacco products by up to 150%, data shows

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia , October 7, 2013 () – Smokers in the Kingdom puffed away 55,992 tons of tobacco products worth SR3.4 billion in 2012. This figure emerged despite the Kingdom's efforts to fight smoking by increasing import tariffs on certain tobacco products by up to 150 percent.

The General Statistics Department has identified tobacco as one of the most in demand consumer products in the country, ranking 17th on a list of 50 consumer goods.

Cigarette imports in the Kingdom rose from 37,806 tons in 2011 to 37,221 tons in 2012.

Tobacco imports exceeded the import of wheat (0.45 percent), corn (0.39 percent) and children's food (0.34 percent), the department said, adding that Saudi Arabia comes 23rd for tobacco consumption globally.

According to one report, 30,000 people die every year in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries as a result of smoking. GCC states have allocated 15 percent of the total health expenditure for the treatment of diseases caused by smoking.

Experts have suggested that hiking the price of cigarettes by raising import tariffs is the best way to encourage people to quit smoking. Saudi Arabia imposes tariffs ranging between 20 and 150 percent on different tobacco products, with the highest tariff imposed on cigars. Six major international companies generate a combined annual turnover of $346 billion from tobacco sales. Tobacco accounts for 0.58 percent of total Saudi imports, worth SR583.5 billion.

Cigarette smoking causes many types of cancer, including cancer of the lung, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach and cervix, besides acute myeloid leukemia. Of the more than 7,000 chemicals present in tobacco smoke, at least 250 are known to be harmful, including hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, and ammonia. Among these harmful chemicals, at least 69 can cause cancer.

"Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and diminishes a person's overall health," said one doctor. Smoking also causes heart disease, stroke, aortic aneurysms (a balloon-like bulge in an artery in the chest), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, hip fractures and cataract. "Smokers are at higher risk of developing pneumonia and other respiratory infections," he added.

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