Dubai: UAE residents who smoke in their cars with children under the age of 12 present can be fined by police as per the anti-smoking law of 2009 — even though its bylaw is yet to be approved by the cabinet, a senior official at the Ministry of Health (MOH) said.
“When the Federal Law on Tobacco Control was issued, this clause was very clear. Police and law enforcers have the right to stop you if you violate it — just like when they find you using your mobile phone or not wearing a seat belt when driving,” Dr Wedad Al Maidour, Head of the National Tobacco Control Programme at MOH, told Gulf News.
The Federal Law on Tobacco Control No 15 was signed into law in 2009 but its by-law, or implementing regulations, are yet to be approved by the cabinet.
Dr Wedad said they were hoping the cabinet would pass the by-law by the end of the year.
Anyone caught violating this provision will be fined Dh500 for the first and second offence, and Dh1,000 for the third offence.
While police have every power to enforce this, Dr Wedad said she believes nobody has done so so far.
Concerned parents spoke to Gulf News about the unhealthy practice of smoking inside cars on UAE roads.
Shareen Batcha, 40, said: “I see it twice in a week every time I drive to work from Al Quoz to Al Nahda. I’ve been driving for the past eight years and I have been seeing this happening for quite a long time. Near the floating bridge, I always see parents, mostly guys, smoking in their cars even when there are schoolchildren onboard.”
“I cannot take the sight of people smoking in cars with kids inside as we all know it’s harmful for them. I used to be a smoker but I quit ten years back. As parents, we should be a role models to our kids,” he added.
Indian expatriate Rajesh Sherma shared Batcha’s sentiment. “It’s absolutely a criminal offence. It’s not that they don’t know as we all know the dangers of passive smoking.”
Sherma said for every ten days that he’s on the road, he sees at least one person smoking inside a car with children. Most of these smokers are men, he added.
The smaller space of the car makes the ill effects of smoking more severe for children as they are more vulnerable to respiratory infections, a doctor said.
“When someone smokes inside a car and a child is present, the child becomes a very significant passive smoker. Various studies have shown that passive smoking to some extent is equal to active smoking. So the child being inside the car would seem that he himself is smoking,” Dr Sreekumar Sreedharan, specialist physician at the Aster Clinic, told Gulf News.
“Passive smoking is known to cause recurrent infections in children. Every child is prone to many infections as their immune systems are not fully developed at the early stage of life,” he added.
Opening the window does not solve the problem as a portion of the smoke and other air pollutants still circulate within the enclosed space, Dr Sreedharan said. Smokers should also be aware of the effects of third-hand smoking where smoke particles stick to the car interiors and keep producing toxic chemicals for days which have carcinogenic effects.