98% Favor Ban on Smoking at Workplace

Saudi Arabia, 13 Aug 2007

DUBAI, 13 August 2007 — A smoker's life span is shortened by about five minutes for each cigarette smoked. On average, those killed by smoking have lost 10-15 years of life. And a majority of professionals in the Middle East prefer to work in a smoke-free environment.

The latest survey by GulfTalent found that 98 percent of professionals favor some form of smoking restrictions in their workplace. Of the total respondents, which included both smokers and non-smokers, 54 percent preferred a complete ban on smoking on the office premises, while a further 44 percent believed that the workplace should be largely smoke-free, with smoking only permitted in certain designated areas.

Only two percent of professionals surveyed were completely opposed to any form of smoking restrictions. Currently around 10 percent of companies have no smoking restrictions in place, while a large number of companies which do have official smoking bans fail to enforce them fully — with many staff, including some senior managers, reportedly flouting the rules.

The survey found that overall, one-third of Middle East professionals smoke. This varies significantly by country, with Egypt and Jordan topping the list at 38 percent, while Oman is the lowest, with only 20 percent of its employees smoking. Saudi Arabia's percentage is 36 percent and the UAE's is 32 percent.

On a nationality level, smoking is most prevalent among Arab professionals at 36 percent, followed by Western professionals at 28 percent and Asian professionals at 27 percent.

In terms of gender, smoking is far more prevalent among men than women, with 36 percent of male professionals smoking compared to 18 percent of their female counterparts.

On a corporate level, 55 percent of companies currently have a complete ban on indoor smoking, while 36 percent permit smoking in designated areas only. The penetration of smoking bans varies greatly across the region.

Oman leads the anti-smoking drive, with 65 percent of companies having a complete smoking ban. Kuwait is the most smoker-friendly country with only 42 percent of firms banning smoking in the workplace. In the UAE, 62 percent of firms have banned smoking in the workplace and 56 percent in Saudi Arabia.

Seventy-five percent of non-smokers participating in GulfTalent's survey said that they were bothered by passive smoking.

Smoking-related illnesses are believed to cost Middle East governments and employers billions of dollars each year in health care costs and insurance premiums.

The Saudi Health Ministry recently banned smoking in government buildings, while the municipalities of Riyadh and Jeddah have banned shisha in all cafes and restaurants within the city.

The Dubai Municipality has promised a blanket ban on smoking in all enclosed spaces — to be enforced across all shopping malls, cafes, restaurants, universities and business premises from Nov. 15, 2007.