Muscat: Omani authorities have announced tighter regulations on shisha cafés in the country. Under the new rules, shisha cafés must be at least 200 metres away from residential areas as well as governmental, education, health and religious buildings.
Only hotels with three stars or more are allowed to obtain a shisha permit, but the restaurants which serve the product must not be located at the main entrance and should have a separate entrance from outside the hotel.
The restaurant must be fully enclosed, with a proper ventilation system and not be visible to visitors, the regulations say.
Individuals under the age of 18 are not allowed to smoke shisha and the restaurant should display signs indicating this rule.
Workers tasked with preparing shisha are not be involved in preparing the food. They should also wear a different uniform than other workers.
Water used for the shisha must be cold and changed regularly.
The tobacco used must be preserved in airtight containers and stored at temperatures specified by the manufacturer.
The coal used must be natural and not synthetic and it must be lit with natural gas.
A two-year grace period has been given to restaurants in order to comply with the new regulations.
Ordered to relocate
Speaking to Gulf News, an official with the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources said the new regulations came after repeated complaints from Omani nationals about shisha cafés near their residences.
The official confirmed that fines will be increased but did not provide further details.
Shisha cafés near residential areas have been ordered to relocate.
Ahmad Al Zadjali, a resident of Khuwair district in Muscat, told Gulf News he filed over 10 complaints to the Muscat Municipality about a shisha cafe only seven metres away from his house.
“We smelled shisha every day which was very annoying,” Al Zadjali said.
Nasser Al Hatmi said he supported tighter restrictions on shisha as he has seen many children get sucked into the “bad” habit.
Surprise inspections of shisha cafés and heftier penalties have helped reduce the number of under-age smokers.
The new regulations are expected to dramatically reduce the number of shisha smokers as most users prefer posh shisha cafés in the capital and do not want to drive out to industrial areas to indulge in their habit.
In 2014, Oman’s Shura Council voted to ban shisha completely but Omani authorities did not carry out the recommendation.
In December, Oman banned e-cigarettes and e-shisha after medical studies found they contained cancer-causing substances. Those found selling e-cigarettes or e-shisha can be slapped with a 500 Omani rial (Dh4,770) fine. The fine doubles for repeat offenders.
Muscat currently has over 100 shisha cafés.
According to the World Health Organisation, smoking shisha is equivalent to smoking 100 cigarettes in one sitting.