Though Qatar has made some strides in stomping out tobacco addiction among its populace, lax enforcement of public smoking bans here continues to grate on many residents.
Over the weekend, Dr. Ahmed Mohamed al-Mulla, director of Hamad Medical Corp.’s anti-smoking clinic, told the Gulf Times:
“We have a legislation banning smoking in public places. But the implementation part is lacking. The Supreme Council of Health has deputed several officers to check the practice. But at the ground level, not much action is taking place. There must be a greater enforcement of the law.”
Al-Mulla was speaking ahead of World No Tobacco Day, which is being marked internationally today.
None of Qatar’s major supermarkets appeared to be halting tobacco purchases today, even though a handful of Qatar shops have observed this day by banning the sale of cigarettes – a six-year tradition in Dubai – in previous years.
Currently, people who smoke in indoor public places in Qatar can face fines of up to QR500.
Authorities have discussed passing a stricter anti-smoking law that would raise penalties on shops caught selling tobacco to minors and give malls the power to ticket those found smoking on their premises, among other measures.
But after years of discussion, there appears to be little tangible progress with the new legislation.
Meanwhile, shoppers continue to flout public smoking bans, much to the consternation of some residents.
@dohanews @HebaFahmyDoha haha, do they have any no smoking bans in Qatar? Certainly not any that are enforced.
— OP (@baldtrev) May 31, 2015
During a visit to Landmark Mall this afternoon for example, Doha News observed two men drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes at Starbucks.
When asked about the men, the manager of the shop said he was not allowed to speak to media.
However, two customers sitting nearby said they couldn’t stand the smoke. Speaking to Doha News, Umm Abdel Rahman Al Thani said she has complained many times to the coffee shop’s staff about smokers, but to no avail:
“They are too afraid to tell customers it’s illegal,” she said. “Instead they (tell violators that) other customers are upset. Sometimes smokers will put out the cigarette, other times they won’t.”
Al Thani added that many people continue to smoke in malls because the threat of a QR500 is not enough of a deterrent.
Meanwhile, a waitress at Costa Cafe in Landmark Mall told Doha News that when she informs customers that it’s illegal for them to smoke inside the shop, her words often fall on deaf ears. She explained:
“By the time I call the Baladiya (officials at the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning) and they get here, the customer will have already left or put out the cigarette…so what’s the point?” she said, adding that the MMUP must catch customers in the act to give them a fine.
Other residents admitted that they shy away from complaining about smokers.
Mohamed Younis, a customer at Columbus Café in Landmark Mall and father of two young girls, said he knows the smoke is not good for his children, but he prefers not to get into an argument or altercation with other customers by complaining about their smoking.
Exposure to second-hand smoke is a growing problem in Qatar and around the world.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that of the 6 million people annually who die from consuming tobacco, 600,000 of those die from exposure to second-hand smoke.
The organization added that tobacco causes more deaths than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, traffic accidents, suicides and murders combined.
New focus on shisha
In addition to cigarette smoking, authorities have been working over the past several months to raise awareness about the dangers of shisha.
Some health researchers say a shisha smoker will inhale more harmful chemicals than a cigarette smoker in one puff. Doctors in Doha have also said shisha could be 10 times worse than smoking cigarettes.
But attempts to restrict its usage have been met with mixed success.
At the beginning of this year, Katara Cultural Village management announced a ban on shisha smoking in public areas at its restaurants and cafes for health reasons. Several restaurants said the ban cost them many customers.
Also last year, Souq Waqif restaurants were told to set aside half of their outdoor tables for non-shisha smokers. But that policy was quickly scrapped due to declining business.
Despite efforts, smoking rates appear to be rising in Qatar.
Some 12 percent of the country’s population aged 15 years and above said they currently smoke tobacco. That’s up from 10 percent in 2013, the latest Global Adult Tobacco Study found.
Included in that report is what is believed to be the first available figures on shisha smoking in Qatar. Nearly 3.4 percent of adults said they are current shisha smokers. That includes 4.9 percent of men and 1.6 percent of women.
Meanwhile, in the past year, some 800 people have visited government clinics to help them stop smoking, the Primary Health Care corporation in Qatar said, according to QNA.
Let me light up a cigarette while I read this lengthy article…
but honestly I would like to recommend a book “the easy way to stop smoking” to whoever wants to quit smoking, proven effective on my brother in law. just saying…
More nicotine in your lungs! They will realize how important lungs is when you they diagnose of lung cancer, on the later part though!
Lungs are easy to buy when 300,000 QR is just spare change for somebody.
And once you’ve bought one what are you going to do with it?
Get a doctor try to transplant it. LOL
I like the irony in your name :D.
So if smoking is banned in all indoor public places then why is it allowed in the hotel bars? I guess probably the same reason many of the hotels allow prostitutes to openly do business, the law is never applied.
Laws are just recommendations in Qaatr, from driving, to smoking to prosititution.
Have you got a thing about prostitution? I’m sure this is not the first time you’ve mentioned it.
It’s his part time job. His full time job is commenting on Doha News.
LMAO. That explains why he compared eggplants to “phallic shaped objects” in another article…
Deleting for attack.
No but obviously the hotels have here because they make a lot of money out of it and there seems to be the customers for a good business,
Did it go away? I like to have my drink in peace without a nice lady telling me what she will do to me…..
It’s not only allowed in bars. Smoking is also allowed in lobbies and lounges. The hotels claim the law does not apply to them. Does anyone know if that’s true?
Yes … I made a fuss once and they pointed out hotels are exempted and its to the discretion of the hotel management to allow it
Law are like guidelines for best practice or like the do not dive sign on the pool… Everyone ignores it.. But if the lifeguard decides to blow the whistle and kick you out of the pool… You can’t whine cause the sign was pretty clear …
I guess the trick is do whatever you do as long as it does not involve dealing drugs, politics or religion and just try not to make a splash about it
For example there is now a clamp down on “apartment night clubs” in the Pearl and zig zag where locals go to drink and party… Why… They made a splash when they started actually advertising .. Giving the apt names as in club names… Passing around pills and resulted with a rush a ppl espically local girls in HMC emergency room with alcohol poisoning or overdoses…
So then party is over and the law is enforced …
Or like with gays… It’s illegal just as much as using your mobile while driving is illegal… And a walk in any Doha mall or drive on any street will tell you these are two laws no one really cares for…
But gays had to make a splash when one hababi decided to drive his land cruiser into a tent where other gay folks where having a party because habibi’s hababi was eyeing a younger habib making hababi# 1 jealous to the point he drove his land cruiser into the tent… Obviously a lot of folk were injured and that spring there was a clamp winter on rainbow friendly winter camps
Lol…. this made me chuckle, habibi;-)
That brings back memories about why there were no more Full Moon parties after that infamous one in 2005 when the HMC staff had to deal with scores of partiers presenting to the emergency room after popping some dodgy pills.
That is true. A lot of couples cohabit and as long as you don’t make a fuss everyone will leave you alone, although it is technically illegal.
This should be easy to find out for DN, is smoking allowed in hotel restaurants or not. Bars I can somewhat understand, but at a restaurant is disgusting and it bothers me and if we decide to take our kids it can be a real spoiler. Go to Spice Market and it’s ridiculous to have non smoking tables next to a table of 10 chain cigar smokers. Rather than fining people which is obviously not working. Fine the business 10k or suspend their right to serve for a day and you’ll see less smoking in public places. I remember my first Ramadan visiting one of the tents excited and walked out after 5 mins, it was so thick in smoke, my eyes were burning. People had their kids in there!! Never again. Come on DN let’s find out for once and all, are hotels exempt?
Today I decided that instead of smoking, I would go out and have a walk and get some fresh air. I left my appartment here, went out, realized there is neither a way to walk or any pavement nor any fresh air.
So, I lighted up a cigarette and went into a coffee shop.
Which coffee shop? I can’t seem to find those either aside from the crappy ones in malls.
That comment has made my morning. 🙂
Whether rules are lax or not, I must admit that Qatar is a very good place for non-smokers. You don’t see many smokers in malls and other closed spaces. The article makes it look like smoking in malls is a major issue but honestly I do not think it is.
Qatar a good place for non smokers? I am slightly baffled – have you visited Europe or America where smoking in Malls has been banned for years and you are not allowed to smoke in any bars or restaurants? I am a smoker and some restaurants/bars are too smoky for me.
Nz also its completely banned but with a difference – no one does it – its banned =illegal for everyone. It comes down to a respect for the law. Some here feel superior. Its not major but it does affect others. I don’t take my family to starbucks at Landmark as there are always smokers but I would at say Al Khor where I have never seen anyone smoking.
Ezdan hotel (a REALLY REALLY terrible hotel) recently moved and renamed their equally terrible restaurant Cherry Berry to the 4th floor and was shockingly insightful enough to provide a separate smoking area, but this insight was short lived and in their attempt to force the overpriced buffet on people, they decided to make their menu items only available in some glued together tent where smoking is allowed. So anyone who thinks 65 riyals for salty fish, dry pieces of chicken and the super fast 40 min pasta station is too much, is banished elsewhere to suffer second hand smoking.
Cherry berry..only in Doha
Having been in one of MMUP’s buildings recently, they can’t even prevent their own employees smoking in the stairwells (some even in their offices). There were plenty of signs out, but the full ashtray I saw directly under a no-smoking sticker shows the amount of notice taken.