Can you smoke cigarettes in Saudi Arabia

Tax on hookahs in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, a new hookah tax of a whopping 100 percent is causing indignation and confusion. According to the decision of the Ministry of Local and Rural Affairs recently published in the Official Gazette, the tax will be levied on all tobacco products offered in the catering trade. Water pipes are popular in Saudi Arabia and are smoked in many bars.

In a more detailed explanation, however, it says that the tax applies to the entire bill in restaurants that offer tobacco products - regardless of whether a shisha was smoked or not. Several restaurants and cafes also understood the arrangement to mean that the tax applies regardless of tobacco consumption. Some bars therefore took the popular shisha out of their offer, while others lowered the prices so as not to scare off customers.

Lots of confusion

There was a wave of criticism in online networks, with many users posting pictures of their restaurant bills online, which ended up being twice as high. The tax is an "indirect way to ban hookahs without banning them," wrote one critic. "Tobacco Tax - Controversy and Confusion," headlined the Al Madina newspaper.

In the recent past, the Saudi Arabian government has repeatedly resorted to such measures in order to reduce the national deficit. It cut fuel subsidies and introduced new taxes on cigarettes and soft drinks. The tobacco tax is also considered a health protection measure. (APA, October 22, 2019)