Manama: The interior minister of Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s leading consumers of cigarettes, has reiterated the significance of applying a ban on smoking in public places.

Prince Ahmad Bin Abdul Aziz on Sunday evening stressed to all provinces of the kingdom that smoking at all ministries, government institutions and public places was banned under a royal decree and that the application of the ban was a necessity, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.

The negative effects of smoking on individuals and society in general have prompted several countries, including those where the large tobacco companies are based, to limit the places where it is allowed, the minister’s directives said.

“Since we are a Muslim country, we must be an example for other countries in applying the rules of Islam that call for preserving people’s money and interests and public healthcare,” the directives said. “We must stress that smoking is banned in all closed places, including coffee shops, restaurants, shopping malls and crowded areas. The ban extends to cigarettes and to shishas.”

There is a full ban on the sale of cigarettes to people under the age of 18, the directives said.

Shishas, the single or multi-stemmed instrument for smoking flavoured tobacco, is popular among young people, in line with the shisha culture that is deeply embedded across the Middle East.

According to official figures, there are nearly six million smokers in Saudi Arabia. The figures include around 800,000 teenagers, mainly intermediate and high school students, and 600,000 women.

However, expatriates also account for a significant proportion of cigarette consumption in Saudi Arabia despite the increase in campaigns about health concerns, the adoption of several legislative restrictions and new views on the effects of passive smoking.

Earlier this month, a Saudi judge ruled that women who suffered as a result of their husbands’ smoking were allowed to file cases against them.

“Legal rules applied in such cases could reach the stage of divorce,” Appeals Judge Ebrahim Khodairi told local Arabic daily Al Watan.

The judge said that if a woman finds out that her husband is a smoker and that she suffers from his smoking by developing an allergy or any health issue, the marriage can be ended.