Saudi Arabia has banned tobacco smoking in most public places.
Aaron Schachter speaks with Laura Bashraheel, a reporter with the Saudi Gazette, about the ban.
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Aaron Schachter: Saudi Arabia has taken a dramatic step. Yesterday, it banned smoking in government offices and most public places; that includes restaurants, cafes and shopping malls. The ban covers the smoking of water pipes or shisha, as well as selling tobacco to those under 18. The interior minister, Prince Ahmad bin Abdulaziz ordered the ban saying Islam urges the preservation of public health. Laura Bashraheel is a reporter with The Saudi Gazette. She’s been gauging public reaction to the ban.
Laura Bashraheel: Smoking is very popular here. We have teenagers smoking, we have elders smoking, so it’s everywhere.
Schachter: Do you smoke yourself?
Bashraheel: Yes, I smoke shisha.
Schachter: Well, that’s actually the most interesting thing I find because shisha, these water pipes with fruit flavored tobacco are a part of Saudi and Middle Eastern culture.
Bashraheel: There almost in every restaurant and every cafe.
Schachter: Has this been talked about for a while or did it just come up all of the sudden?
Bashraheel: No, there’s been a smoking ban in airports last year, and they implemented it. A few years back they said also that they’re gonna remove the shisha, the water pipes from cafes, but nothing happened. Especially businessmen that own those cafes, they don’t want their business to go down.
Schachter: Yeah, how do you think they’ll deal with that because as you said, this is a big part of what you do at cafes and restaurants.
Bashraheel: I actually doubt that there will be strong implementation in cafes because there are so many rumors a few years back about there are not going to be shishas in restaurants, but then nothing happened. If you own a restaurant that doesn’t sell water pipes, your business will go down.
Schachter: Is there any official way around this ban? Can a restaurant have a dedicated shisha room or can they do it on porches or something like that?
Bashraheel: Well, we do have outdoors, especially you know, the weather in Saudi is very hot and very humid, especially this time of year. So people are saying okay, they will be outdoors, for example, in London you have them outdoors, but what we’re gonna do with the weather? We’re not like the West, we don’t have their weather, so we’re gonna suffer the heat, or we’re not gonna go outside.
Schachter: So are you just a little bit maybe happy about the ban? It’ll keep you from smoking too much shisha.
Bashraheel: Yeah, of course, I mean yesterday I was out with my friends and there were teenagers, 16, 15, a group of teenagers together. They were all smoking shishas and cigarettes even. So this is something that I don’t wanna see anymore in the country, especially the whole thing about banning selling cigarettes for those who are under 18, that’s very important. I wish they actually implemented because we do need it.
Schachter: Laura Bashraheel is a reporter with The Saudi Gazette. She’s been writing about the smoking ban that just went into effect. Thank you so much.
Bashraheel: Thank you so much, Aaron. Have a nice day.
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