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Increasing numbers of Saudis are ditching their cigarettes and switching to vaping devices, according to a story in Arab News.
And they are free to do so because there are no laws banning vaping in Saudi Arabia. Indeed, vapers are free to indulge their habit in public.
But there is a catch. There are apparently no legal ways to obtain a vaping device or e-liquid.
The Ministry of Commerce and Investment banned the sale of vaping products in September 2015.
And Saudi law forbids the sale of such items and considers anyone bringing them in from abroad to be smuggling and, therefore, liable to be fined and have the items confiscated.
These bans, the News said, were forcing vapers in the Kingdom to seek ‘alternative’ methods of buying supplies – alternative methods whose legality was doubtful, which was leaving vapers unsure if they were breaking the law.
One problem for the authorities is that while neighboring countries such as the UAE have adopted similar stances towards vaping – selling the equipment is illegal but using it is fine – others, such as Bahrain, are more relaxed about vaping. So Bahrain is a prime location for smugglers sourcing vaping products.
Many people seem to take a pragmatic view of the situation. Those who spoke to the News called for vaping products to be regulated. “They [vapers] will probably do it anyway,” said a local vaper. “And with Saudi Arabia’s smoking rate being as high as it is, this could be a lucrative area of investment.
“Tax it. Double the price. Do whatever you have to do. Make it safer for everyone.”
Saudi Arabia is said to have a high smoking rate, even though the practice is considered taboo. The Saudi Diabetes and Endocrine Association estimates the number of smokers is almost six million. And this figure is expected to rise to 10 million by 2020, or roughly 30 percent of the population.