JEDDAH (Saudi Arabia) - SIXTEEN smokers were nabbed at Jeddah's internatioanl airport early on Sunday as Saudi Arabia started to implement a smoking ban, an airport official said.

A 200-riyal (S$68) fine has been set for violators in the country's 27 domestic and international terminals, except in specially-designated smoking rooms, said Abdullah Rahimi, head of the General Authority for Civil Aviation.

Rahimi told reporters he hoped the new measure would 'help protect the smoker's health and reduce harm to others,' while urging airport staff to set an example by not lighting up.

Saudi Arabia does not have a general smoking ban in public places, and people smoke freely in government offices.

An official at Jeddah international airport, the main entry point for the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca which starts next week, said most of the first 16 people nabbed after the ban came into effect at midnight were Saudis.

They were allowed to continue their journey without paying the fines immediately but could be stopped on future trips if they fail to pay up.

16 smokers nabbed at airport