Saudi Smokers Quit Smoking, Get a Free Wedding
A quit-smoking campaign in Saudi Arabia will earn one man an all-expenses-paid wedding.
The campaign is designed to promote a healthier lifestyle in a nation where an estimated quarter of the 27.6 million residents are smokers.
Hundreds of men have already expressed interest – including one man who has started smoking so he's eligible.
Banners with the slogan "Kicking the habit is on you, and the marriage is on us" have gone up on bridges and overpasses in Riydah, as well as in malls and universities.
Only men are eligible and only if they're competing for their first marriage.
Several commentators have complained that the campaign is turning women into a commodity, but organizers have taken the criticism in stride, saying they're thrilled to get people talking about the dangers of smoking. About one quarter of Saudi Arabia's 27.6 million residents indulge.
Typically, grooms are responsible for wedding costs in Arab culture, which can be quite expensive once the party, dowry and other costs are paid off. It's an original incentive for young grooms-to-be – who tend to put marriage off until they can afford it – who also want to quit smoking.
While the contest is promoting a healthy lifestyle, critics are already blasting it for being both 'sexist'.
Columnist Maha al-Hujailan said the concept is sexist.
"The campaign stems from an idea directed at male smokers: 'Give up having fun with a cigarette and take a woman instead,'" she wrote in the Al-Watan newspaper Sunday.
Another commentator, Suzan al-Mashhady, noted that Arabs have criticized the West for using women to promote merchandise. "Today, we're using ... the same two-in-one method adopted by a hair product that promises to clean the hair and condition it at the same time," she wrote in the Al-Hayat newspaper.
But a spokesman for the charity said the aim was to create a smoke-free family.
"The fact that people are discussing the campaign means we have fulfilled our goal of spreading the word about it," said Salem al-Majdali.
The August 6 draw will include the grand prize winner, as well as 20 others who will receive free furniture.