Riyadh skyline, Saudi Arabia.
Image Credit: Pixabay

Dubai: Philip Morris International (PMI) responded on Saturday to consumer backlash against its products in Saudi Arabia, saying that there has been “no change” to the ingredients or quality.

The Swiss cigarette manufacturing giant said in a statement that manufacturing process and the taste of the tobacco of its cigarettes in Saudi Arabia have not changed following the implementation of new packaging regulations from Saudi authorities.

Social media has been abuzz lately with outcry against what cigarette consumers called “fake products” in Saudi Arabia. Users claimed that new cigarettes being sold in the Kingdom were dangerous and fake, and blamed that on manufacturing facilities in Dubai.

This followed the implementation of new regulations by Saudi authorities on cigarettes that resulted in a change in their packaging. Users, however, said that with the new packaging came a new flavour, and suspected that the Philip Morris-made cigarettes were now substandard, claiming that they are also imported from manufacturing facilities in Jebel Ali Free Zone. They then called for a boycott of UAE-made food products.

Philip Morris said in its statement that “all [its] cigarette products sold in Saudi Arabia are manufactured in factories in Germany and Poland as well as in Turkey.” The company said that it “does not manufacture any products in the UAE”.

Consumers had also been pointing to a new bar code on the cigarette packs beginning with ‘629’ and alleged that the code referred to an origin in Jebel Ali facilities.

“The bar codes used on our packs beginning with ‘629’ only identify the administrative office where the bar code was digitally generated,” Philip Morris said.

The company added that it abides by all regulations in the countries where it operates, and it applies stringent and consistent global policies and good manufacturing practices with respect to ingredients, safety, and quality for all products.

The backlash on social media had garnered so much attention that authorities from Saudi Arabia publicly responded to it, to assure consumers that it was only the packaging that had changed. Even the Dubai Media Office responded, with a series of tweets that called the allegations a “smear campaign” against UAE products.