(MENAFN - Arab News) The heavy custom fees levied on tobacco did not reduce its imports which rose by about 57 percent last year compared to 2009 , business daily Al-Eqtisadiah reported Friday quoting a statistical report issued by the customs department.
According to the report, Saudi Arabia imported 57,838 tons of tobacco in 2011 valued at SR3.3 billion compared to the imports of 2009 which reached SR2.104 billion.
Abdullah Al-Salman, member of the welfare committee to combat smoking, said this quantity was considered to be extremely large because the taxes on imports of tobacco were still low. "These taxes should be increased because the proceeds will be used to treat diseases caused by smoking," he said.
Al-Salman said the price of cigarettes was not increased to the desired level. "A packet of cigarettes is still being sold at SR10 which is considered low compared to the prices in the US and Europe which are close to SR45," he said.
He expressed worries that cigarettes were still being sold to the underage and said a bad on sales of cigarettes to the children should be strictly applied.
Al-Salman said the ratio of women smokers has reached 10 percent and noted that most of them were working in the sector of business and private companies.
Al-Salman believed that increasing the prices of cigarettes and imposing fines on people who smoke in public places would help reduce the number of smokers. He noted that shops that sell cigarettes have increased by about 200 percent and called for keeping them away from the residential areas.
According to the various campaigns launched to reduce the number of smokers, about 22000 die in Saudi Arabia every year because of various diseases caused resulting from smoking.
According to figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO), here were six million smokers in the Kingdom including 1.5 million women.
Saudi Arabia is considered the fourth largest importer of tobacco with the average consumption per individual put at 2130 cigarettes.
The WHO said five million people die every year in the world because of smoking and expected the figure to rise to eight million by the year 2030.s