Report: Qatar revisiting the idea of a new, stricter anti-smoking law

Shisha smoking

Andy Hayes/Flickr

Qatar may finally adopt a stricter anti-smoking law after years of discussion about cracking down on tobacco usage in the country.

The Qatar Tribune reports a senior Hamad Medical Corp. official as saying the new law is expected to meet Advisory (Shura) Council approval “soon.”

The legislation apparently contains much steeper fines than the previous law, according to Dr. Ahmed al Mulla, director of HMC’s anti-smoking clinic.

Penalties include:

  • Raising fines for shops found selling cigarettes to kids QR5,000 (instead of the current QR500 penalty);
  • Punishing shops who violate other tenets of the law with fines of up to QR100,000, instead of QR5,000); and
  • Shutting down shops who repeatedly flout the law.

Previously, other new rules under consideration included a ban on shisha outlets in residential areas and near schools. Cigarette vendors also must be located at least one kilometer away from schools.

Smoking cigarettes and shisha in closed spaces is banned under the current law, but only government officials can ticket violations.

Amid complaints from residents about lax enforcement, the new legislation would also give malls the power to fine those found smoking on their premises.

Varied success

According to a 2013 World Health Organization study, some 10 percent of Qatar’s adult population smokes (over 200,000 people).

WHO, which interviewed more than 8,000 households here (including nationals and expats) also found that almost half of Qatar’s habitual smokers began their habit before they turned 18.

Reducing Qatar residents’ dependency on tobacco has been a tricky process, in part because the sale of shisha and cigarettes are a big business here.

In 2012, for example, Qatar and several other GCC countries began adding new graphic warning labels on tobacco products, including images of damaged lungs and jaws.

But according to a Supreme Council of Health official, tobacco companies have been pressuring Qatar to remove the labels – a sign that they must be working, he said in November.

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.

Restaurant management told Doha News at the time that policy was simply unfeasible, as there was always a queue of customers waiting to smoke shisha, while the non-smoking tables sat empty.

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