Taxation, inflated prices cut the prevalence of smokers in Saudi by a third: Report

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Taxation on tobacco products and price increases of cigarettes have helped slash the number of smokers in Saudi Arabia by more than a third, a new report has revealed.

The Tobacconomics Cigarette Tax Scorecard (2nd edition) report examined country-by-country data between 2014 and 2020 on the prevalence of smokers and anti-tobacco measures in place, giving countries a rating of between zero and five.

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Those countries rated five had worked the highest to reduce tobacco prevalence within their borders.

It found Saudi Arabia was among the highest-rated countries in the world in terms of its rating improvements between 2014 and 2020; the last year on record.

In 2014, Saudi Arabia had ranked 0.75 out of five – but by 2020 now ranks 3.75 out of five, due to measures implemented in recent years.

It scored five out of five for changes in the affordability of tobacco products

These include a special tax on electronic cigarettes in 2019, extending similar taxes introduced in 2017 which saw a 100 percent tax levied on cigarettes – leading to tobacco prices to double.

This led to a 37 percent reduction in tobacco consumption across the Kingdom, home to a population of around 35 million.

The report said Saudi Arabia scored higher than the average score of countries in its region, income group, and the global average for its anti-tobacco measures.

The report said: “Tobacco taxes are the most effective tobacco control intervention but the least implemented.

“A sufficiently large tax increase will raise tobacco product prices—making them less affordable—thereby discouraging initiation, encouraging quitting, and driving down consumption.”

The 2nd edition of the Tobacconomics Cigarette Tax Scorecard measures cigarette tax policy performance in 160 countries in four key areas – price, affordability change, tax structure, and tax share.

These scores help policymakers to evaluate their success and provide a roadmap for improvement.

The scorecard comes in conjunction with the release of the latest edition of The Tobacco Atlas report which revealed that tobacco companies “took advantage of COVID-19” to attract new smokers during the pandemic whilst progress to tackle the global tobacco epidemic is being threatened by the growing number of teenage smokers.

It said while countries diverted their attention to the COVID-19 crisis, the tobacco industry took “the opportunity to increase market shares, attract new customers, retain smokers and polish their corporate reputations.”

It found that although more people overall are being protected by effective regulatory interventions including tobacco taxes, smoke-free public areas, access restrictions, and education, these efforts must be much more robust to contend with an industry whose gross profits climbed to at least US $60 billion in 2020.

Across the globe, the report reveals there are 1.1 billion smokers in the world and 200 million more who use other tobacco products.

Read more:

Tobacco companies took ‘advantage of COVID-19 ’ to attract new smokers: Report

Saudi Arabia introduces new tax on tobacco, raise prices by 100 percent

Growing number of teenagers are vaping, believe it is ‘fashionable’: UAE experts

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