Abu Dhabi: Motorists who smoke in a car with a child inside will be fined Dh500, as the anti-tobacco federal law goes into effect on Tuesday.
The law also bans shops located near schools from selling tobacco.
“This law intends to make it difficult for smokers to light up. It also ensures that tobacco products cannot be advertised on any kind of media, including radio and television networks,” Dr Widad Al Maidour, head of tobacco control at the Ministry of Health, told Gulf News.
The new laws makes it difficult for smokers to light up in closed public places across the UAE, including malls and restaurants.
The doctor said the laws need to be widened to stop people smoking near shopping malls. “Municipalities need to ensure that smokers light up at least 25 metres from the entrance to protect non-smokers.
“In essence, people who find others smoking in public places should be able to complain to authorities about this harmful practice. The implementation of these standards, however, depends on regulatory authorities. For example, the traffic police should apprehend people found smoking in cars if they are with a child who is 12 years or younger,” she said.
In order to ensure that residents’ complaints are heard, Dr Widad hopes to establish a toll-free number where people can call in and report establishments that flout the rules.
Doctors also praised the new legislation, saying that it would protect people from passive smoking.
“The biggest danger when adults smoke with children around are the toxins they could inhale. Because their lungs are weaker, they are very sensitive to harmful compounds like carbon monoxide, and this is why the new law is very helpful,” said Dr Shamil Wanigaratne, consultant clinical psychologist at the National Rehabilitation Centre in Abu Dhabi.
“Most importantly, the new regulation is a message to people that smoking is not acceptable. It makes the habit unfashionable. And such regulations have had a dramatic and unpredicted effect in the West; people thought they would not cut back on smoking but they have,” the doctor said.
Dr Sami Man Ahmad, community specialist and registrar at the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), said there is overwhelming evidence that smoking causes various cancers.
To make the health risks of smoking more evident, a proposal has also been forwarded to the GCC Ministry of Health Council to make the warning images on cigarette packs more graphic. Doctors said raising the cost of cigarettes is a good idea as teens will think twice about smoking. Second-hand smoke makes children more prone to infections and it affects unborn babies, said Dr Hanan Obaid, head of community health at the DHA.