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Carrefour Villaggio's cigarette section

Neha Rashid / Doha News

Carrefour Villaggio’s cigarette section

Some businesses in Qatar will honor World No Tobacco Day today by not selling cigarettes and related products in their stores.

That includes French supermarket Carrefour, which has several branches around the country.

Speaking to Doha News, a representative said that the stores will put up large signs that call attention to No Tobacco Day and encourage customers to not smoke.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Jonttu Leskinen/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Carrefour has been observing World No Tobacco Day by temporarily halting the sale of cigarettes for the past few years, according to Mohamed Jendoubi, a section manager at Villaggio’s Carrefour branch.

Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC) will also observe today by holding workshops and awareness campaigns for visitors and staff from 8am to noon, the Peninsula reports.

According to WHO, the goal of the day is to raise awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco consumption and help people kick their habits.

Stricter rules

Smoking is a big problem in Qatar.

In 2012, government figures stated that one of every three people living here were addicted to smoking, with some going through more than 20 cigarettes a day.

However, a more recent 2014 government report found that 12 percent of adults (aged 15 plus) smoke, compared to around 10 percent in a separate study a year earlier.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Laurence Currie-Clark/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Second-hand smoke is also an issue, which officials recently raised while discussing a new draft law that would increase the fine for smoking in closed public areas from QR500 to QR3,000, raise customs duties on tobacco products and increase spending on health education.

And last month, the Ministry of Public Health introduced a smoking hotline to report those who are found to be flouting indoor bans.

It also launched a squad of inspectors to start patrolling the most popular malls and fine people on-the-spot for the offense.

Plain packaging campaign

Today, Qatar is also supporting a global initiative being run by the World Health Organization called the plain packaging campaign.

World Health Organization's Plain Packaging poster

World Health Organization

World Health Organization’s Plain Packaging poster

The effort aims to make cigarettes unattractive to consumers, leading to a reduction in tobacco use.

In a statement, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon explained:

“As laid out in the UN tobacco control treaty, this entails restricting or prohibiting the use of logos, colors, brand images or any promotional information other than brand and product names displayed in a standard color and font.”

WHO is calling on all governments to implement this packaging on tobacco products in their respective countries.

Whether Qatar adopts the packaging remains to be seen.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Shabina S. Khatri / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

However, it and other Gulf nations supported an earlier push to curb cigarette usage by mandating that graphic warning labels be placed on boxes.

In 2013, a senior health official said the packaging was working, as the government had gotten pressure from cigarette companies to remove the warnings.

Thoughts?

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Laurence Currie-Clark/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

A steep hike in fines for those caught smoking indoors in public areas such as shopping malls is among the recommendations approved by Qatar’s Advisory (Shura) Council yesterday.

During its weekly meeting, council members unanimously approved a new draft law that would more strictly regulate tobacco usage in the country, QNA reported.

The latest move follows years of discussion about tightening existing restrictions on smoking in Qatar.

The new proposals, which have been sent to the Cabinet for its approval, include raising the fine for people caught smoking in closed public areas to QR3,000 from the existing maximum of QR500.

Penalties for employees who allow people to smoke in their establishments would also become an offense punishable with a QR3,000 fine, the Peninsula reports.

If enacted, the provision could put pressure on coffee shop staff to take action against smokers.

Previously, many workers said they felt intimidated to reproach offenders, and that they are often ignored when they try to point out the law.

In Article 6 of the new draft law, members also recommended that tobacco should not be sold within 1km of schools and educational establishments, an increase from the current 500m restriction, Al Sharq reported.

It is already illegal to sell cigarettes or tobacco to children under the age of 18 in Qatar.

Other measures recommended by the Shura for adoption include:

  • Raising customs duties of tobacco products from 2 percent to 5 percent, and spending that money on health education;
  • Closing an establishment caught violating the new law for up to three months; and
  • Publishing convictions of businesses in at least two daily newspapers, at the expense of the erring party.

In the event of a conviction for violating the law, a court can order confiscation, destroying or re-exporting of tobacco products and their derivatives, irrespective of the quantity.

The import and sale of electronic cigarettes has been banned in Qatar since 2013. The use of sweika and other chewing tobacco products will also be prohibited under the draft provisions.

Tougher line

Qatar authorities have for years been discussing introducing tougher anti-smoking measures to try to curb the habit, which appears to be increasingly popular despite all the health messages against it.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Shabina S. Khatri / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

More than two years ago, the Shura Council was reportedly on the brink of approving stricter rules, such as raising fines for shops found selling cigarettes to kids to QR5,000 (instead of the current QR500 penalty) and closing down shops that repeatedly flout the law.

At the time, it was also proposing to increase the distance tobacco vendors are allowed to be from schools to 1km.

However, the law remained unchanged.

Qatar’s existing legislation governing smoking and the sale of tobacco dates back 14 years to Law No. 20 of 2002 on the Control of Tobacco and its Derivatives.

Under Article 10, smoking is prohibited in public places including public transport, schools, training and education centers, universities, hospitals and other health facilities, ministries, shops, cinemas, theaters, shopping malls, restaurants and other establishments that sell food.

Enclosed smoking areas may be established, but the law adds: “smoking areas in restaurants and similar places…may not be completely closed.”

For illustrative purposes only

Jonttu Leskinen/Flickr

For illustrative purposes only

Until recently, enforcement of this law has been lax and residents have often complained that people smoke in coffee shops inside malls and go unpunished.

In what appears to be a crackdown on this practice, the Ministry of Public Health introduced a smoking hotline last month to report offenders.

It also launched a squad of inspectors to start patrolling the most popular malls and fine people on-the-spot for the offense.

These actions come as more people seem to be taking up smoking.

A 2014 government report found that 12 percent of adults (aged 15 plus) smoke, compared to around 10 percent in a separate study a year earlier.

Thoughts?

For illustrative purposes only

Jonttu Leskinen/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only

Addressing complaints about the illegal but frequent practice of people smoking inside Qatar’s shopping malls, authorities have launched a new tobacco hotline for the public to report offenders.

Starting today, a squad of inspectors will also patrol the most popular malls and fine people on-the-spot for the offense.

The hotline was set up by the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), it announced in Arabic yesterday.

Beginning today, residents can call the number 5030 2001 to lodge complaints that include smoking in public places or observing stores selling tobacco to children.

These reports will then be investigated, MOPH said.

A team of eight inspectors are working on two shifts between 10am and 10pm and will target the malls where indoor smoking is most prevalent, namely Landmark, City Center, Villaggio and Ezdan malls, a representative at the hotline told Doha News.

Offenders caught by the inspectors will be given a QR500 fine on the spot.

Long-standing issue

Smoking appears to be increasingly popular here. A 2014 government report found that 12 percent of adults (aged 15 plus) smoke, compared to around 10 percent in a separate study a year earlier.”

However, smoking in public places such as shopping malls, shops, restaurants, transport and government buildings is illegal under Law no. 20 of 2002 on the Control of Tobacco and its Derivatives.

In 2010, the then-Supreme Council of Health started spot-checks and issued fines to offenders, but in recent years enforcement has been patchy and the practice still continues.

For illustrative purposes only.

Samrah Shahid / Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Last summer, Dr. Ahmed Mohamed al-Mulla, director of Hamad Medical Corp.’s anti-smoking clinic, called for authorities to take a tougher stance.

Previously, employees of cafes said they were intimidated to reproach offenders, and they are often ignored when they do try to point out the law.

For years, the government has been considering introducing stricter anti-smoking measures such as increasing the fines for shops found selling cigarettes to children, or closing down stores which repeatedly break the law. But these have yet to be enacted.

Thoughts?