Dubai: Dubai Municipality has warned 40 dokha stores regarding the sale of the tobacco without prior licence or certificate of conformity, said Engineer Marwan Abdullah Al Mohammad, Director of the Public Health and Safety Department.
Engineer Al Mohammad added that certificates of conformity can be easily attained through the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology and shopkeepers can check the website to familiarise themselves with the requirements set.
“This authority’s responsibility is to check all products coming into the country that will be sold in the market to make sure they meet the standards and specifications set,” he said. “Once products are approved, shopkeepers are given the approval to sell their products to the public.”
Unfortunately, there were 40 shops selling dokha without the necessary certificates which is not in the interest of the public’s health and safety, Al Mohammad said.
“Shops receive an initial warning, the second warning will come in the form of a Dh5,000 fine and, if it persists, a second fine worth Dh10,000 will be issued,” he explained.
Al Mohammad said that if a shopkeeper fails to comply after the second fine, commercial operations of the establishment are halted until they make the necessary amendments.
“We block their work licence temporarily so they can’t renew their residency visas or process any legal documents until the issue has been addressed because in the system there is a pending issue with Dubai Municipality,” he clarified.
In addition to warning shops about attaining the appropriate licences, Dubai Municipality has also imposed new regulations on dokha shops. Shopkeepers are no longer allowed to serve motorists, nor are they allowed to clean medwakh (the long pipe used to smoke the tobacco blend). Customers are also no longer permitted to try dokha blends inside the store and the new rules stipulate that dokha shops only sell pre-packaged products.
The new regulations are reshaping the decades-old dokha trade in the city. A practice originating in Oman over two centuries ago, smoking dokha has melted into the local urban culture. Favoured for the drowsy effect the nicotine rush gives, the practice is particularly popular among people between the ages of 20 and 30, with over 150 dokha shops selling the tobacco blend in the UAE.
A dokha vendor in Abu Hail said the new rules stipulate that all dokha blends should be pre-packaged and no customer is allowed to try a blend in the store.
“We carry dozens and dozens of blends,” the Iranian shopkeeper said, “where some blends are popular among customers and are in constant demand; we have some people who like to try new blends, trying them first at our shops before buying them. They can’t do that any more. In fact, we aren’t allowed to keep any open dokha containers in our shop.”
According to the shopkeeper, the store has been forced to raise prices of dokha blends by Dh5 to Dh15, depending on the blend, as a way of coping with the pre-packaging rule. Average medium-sized bottles were priced Dh20 and have been raised to Dh25.
“We are also required to pay a yearly sum for each dokha blend we sell,” he said. “We can’t keep up with the prices and still make profit, as such we are going to have to slim down the variety of dokha we sell.”
The shopkeeper said the new rules also forbid them from cleaning the medwakh pipes.
According to another shopkeeper in Abu Hail, dokha stores are no longer allowed to keep the air-tank they use to briskly clean pipes in their stores. Though customers have expressed their discontentment, stores have complied to municipal regulations to help with preserving public health and safety.