Abu Dhabi: The imminent introduction of graphic warnings on cigarette packs in the UAE has once again incited many residents to call for a ban on smoking in indoor venues in the capital.
Although certain facilities in Abu Dhabi do not entertain smoking at present, an emirate-wide decision has not been issued as yet, and many malls and cafes still allow people to light up within their premises, Gulf News has found.
“This is not right. Smokers have an overall uncaring behaviour to the well-being of others around them, and something needs to be done to protect those who choose to lead healthy lifestyles and avoid smoking,” Farida Siddiqi, a 62-year-old social worker from Canada, told Gulf News.
At a café nearby her home, Siddiqi has repeatedly tried to appeal to the manager to put a stop to indoor smoking. “When I approached the manager, however, he told me they had a license to allow smoking within their premises,” she said.
Another resident, Suad Baddar, is also worried because exposure to second-hand smoke had previously caused her children to develop allergies.
“Many places that we visit, like malls and cafes, allow smokers. Not only do they affect the health of my children but the smoke clings to our clothes and continues to bother us even after we have left,” Baddar said.
Dr Wedad Al Maidour, head of the national tobacco control programme at the Ministry of Health, told Gulf News: “The ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces across the UAE has been part of federal law since 2009. However, by-laws stipulating how the ban will be implemented have not yet been approved, and this is why the practice still continues today.”
In June 2011, ministry officials submitted a draft of the by-laws to the UAE Cabinet. Now, a written agreement from various stakeholders that will implement the ban is pending, Dr Al Maidour said.
“As soon as the by-laws come into place, establishments in Abu Dhabi will prohibit smoking in enclosed public spaces. Already, many shisha cafes have been moved from the heart of the city to the suburbs,” she added.
But enterprises that offer shisha continue to be set up in downtown Abu Dhabi. One concerned resident who contacted Gulf News said a shisha café had opened in his building on Khalifa Street as recently as June.
Smoking in enclosed public areas has been banned in Dubai since 2007, and in Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah since 2008. Ajman, too, has had a ban in place since 2010.
Certain establishments in the capital have nevertheless prohibited smoking,
V. Nandakumar, head of corporate communications at the Lulu Group, confirmed that smoking had been banned at the popular Al Wahda Mall since July.
“This is the first step we have taken in our fight against tobacco use. Very soon we hope to implement similar bans across the other malls we manage,” Nandakumar said.
Cafes at Al Wahda Mall have however reported a drop in sales since the ban. A waitress at one of the cafes said they had seen a 50 per cent fall in the number of people who frequented the coffee shop.
When approached, some smokers said they agreed with a ban on smoking in enclosed public areas.
“I am a smoker, but I know how harmful and irritating it can be to others, so I do support such a decision,” said Ali Dakkak, 28, a public relations executive in Abu Dhabi.
Others, however, believe a prohibition on smoking in cafes is unnecessary.
“Some cafes and restaurants that I used to frequent have banned smoking, and I tend to avoid going there now. It is a nuisance for me as a smoker to have to stand outside in the heat if I want to smoke. Whenever we plan a day out these days, I always call beforehand to check if there are any indoor smoking areas,” said F.F., 27, an Arab resident.
-With additional inputs from Tamara Suleiman, intern at Gulf News