Though Qatar has a law banning smoking in public places, it is unfortunate that the implementation part is lacking, Dr Ahmed Mohamed al-Mulla, director of Anti-Smoking Clinic, Hamad Medical Corporation, had pointed out to Gulf Times earlier this year. We are approaching the end of the year and sadly nothing has changed in this regard.
“The Supreme Council of Health has deputed several officers to check the practice. But at the ground level, not much action is taking place. There must be a greater enforcement of the law,” the senior Qatari official had urged. It seems the powers that be are yet to listen to his fervent plea.
On the contrary, smoking in public places has gone up of late. Smokers are puffing away, as if with a vengeance, polluting the air and endangering the lives of non-smokers, who are helpless victims of a crime against good health and wellness.
It is very difficult for non-smokers to visit many public places in Qatar these days. Even a family-friendly recreation location such as the picturesque Museum of Islamic Art Park in Doha reeks of tobacco smoke. Entrances of all popular malls in the country are clouded with tobacco smoke as smokers crowd around and smoke.
Though the managements of malls generally succeed in enforcing the ban on smoking inside their premises, it is unfortunate that some individuals continue to violate the law with impunity, smoking in some coffee shops, sitting right under the ‘No Smoking’ signs. This is nothing but arrogance coupled with ignorance. The staff members at such outlets plead helplessness as the persons who break the law against smoking in public places happen to be “very influential.”
According to facts from the World Health Organisation, tobacco kills up to half of its users. Around 6mn people die each year because of tobacco use. More than 5mn of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while more than 600,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke, which fills restaurants, offices or other enclosed spaces when people burn tobacco products such as cigarettes, bidis and water-pipes. There are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer.
There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke. In adults, second-hand smoke causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. In infants, it causes sudden death. In pregnant women, it causes low birth weight.
Almost half of children regularly breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke in public places. In 2004, children accounted for 28% of the deaths attributable to second-hand smoke.
A decision by Katara, the Cultural Village Foundation, earlier this year banning shisha smoking at restaurants at its premises, ought to be emulated elsewhere in Qatar. In an interview with Gulf Times, Dr al-Mulla had called for shifting shisha outlets out of the Doha city limits.
Also needed is a heavy crackdown on all other forms of smoking in public places. Every person should be able to breathe tobacco-smoke-free air. When will Qatar residents be able to breathe clean air? The ball is in the court of the authorities concerned.