Most smokers feel ban now irrelevant

DUBAI — A formal ban on smoking in public places in Dubai would be irrelevant since smoking (in public places) has already been reduced considerably as a result of heightened awareness on the hazards of passive smoking as well as the rights of non-smokers, many smokers opined yesterday.

By Zaigham Ali Mirza

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Published: Wed 30 Nov 2005, 10:08 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 3:55 PM

A section of the Press carried a report yesterday, which indicated a ban on smoking in public places was round the corner following the ratification of the WHO Framework Convention On Tobacco Control on November 7, 2005 by the UAE. There has been no official announcement regarding the convention or the changes it would bring to the federal and local policies for controlling tobacco with a view to improve public health. Officials at local government departments in Dubai, including the civic body, expressed ignorance of the ratification of the convention as well as its requirements and implementation deadline.

An official of the Ministry of Heath told your favourite No. 1 newspaper, Khaleej Times, when a country signs an international convention, it has three months to issue legislations that put it into effect.

“Regulations will be introduced, and the bodies concerned in each emirate would be charged with the task of observing them,” the official said, without elaborating on whether the ratification of the WHO FCTC would entail a ban on smoking in public places.

Meanwhile, when Khaleej Times spoke with smokers and non-smokers on the issue, views were mixed on a ban on smoking in public places. Non-smokers pointed out the senselessness of some smokers who puff away in presence of children even in closed places, but many smokers said there was a sharp fall in the ‘freedom of smoking’ as smokers are more conscious of their surroundings (when smoking) as well as considerate towards non-smokers in general and women and children in particular.

“If there is a plan to introduce a ban on smoking in public places, it wouldn’t change much in my personal view. As a responsible adult, I only smoke in open areas and away from people. When I go to a restaurant or a coffee shop, I ask for a table in the smokers’ area. I know that one cannot smoke at office, cinema halls, in government buildings, lobbies of some of the major hotel and convention centres, on domestic and international flights, and the list is endless. Basically, if I do not see an ashtray around me, I do not light up; and I know a lot of enlightened smokers who follow this principle,” said Jake White, a smoker for over twenty years.

Ghanshyam, another smoker, pointed out that when there was already a list of places where smoking was not allowed why would there be a need for a formal ban. “Go to any shopping mall in Dubai or Sharjah and you will find the smokers hanging around the designated areas, which are marked in some malls, or near the ashtrays - which is another way of designating an area for smokers. The only places that continue to offer complete 'freedom' to smokers are the pubs, bars and discotheques, otherwise smoking in public places is already almost non-existent,” he said.

A sizeable portion of respondents told KT they felt that with time smokers will understand the issue better and smoking in public places would be history.

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