Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Dubai - Blanket ban on smoking in public proposed

Asma Ali Zain (Deputy Chief Reporter)/Dubai
asmaalizain@khaleejtimes.com Filed on May 31, 2016
Awadh Sagheer Al Kitbi and Dr. Hussein Abdul Rahman Al Rand hold placards as part of World No Tobacco Day in Dubai on Tuesday.
(Photo by Shihab)

If plan becomes effective, there will no longer be designated areas also in public places

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The UAE health ministry is proposing a blanket ban on smoking which means there will no longer be any designated areas for smoking in public.
The proposal is being readied to be presented to the Prime Minister's Office by the year-end for approval since it will require an amendment in the National Anti-Tobacco Law.
Currently, smokers - by law - are prohibited from smoking in malls, public transport, government offices, restaurants, cafeterias, vehicles except for in places where it is allowed. Shisha smoking is prohibited in public parks, gardens and beaches. However, they are to smoke just outside of these premises.
Cigarette packs with gory warnings by 2017
Pictorial warnings covering 70 per cent of cigarette packs with sterner warning messages in English and Arabic will be in place by 2017, said a health official on Tuesday.
 As reported by Khaleej Times on Monday, the UAE is changing the set of pictorial warnings on tobacco products as well as discussing an increase in taxation to curb tobacco use.
 "The size of the pictorial warnings that cover the cigarette pack is going to be increased from the current 50 per cent to 70 per cent," said Dr Wedad.
 She said the packaging was standard across the GCC countries. "A set of five pictures are being finalized and will be used in rotation," she said.
 While the WHO's theme for this year's World No Tobacco Day focuses on plain packaging, the official said that there were no current plans. "We will be taking this up in the future," she added.
A similar requirement put forth by UAE officials in 2010 asked for a bylaw to abolish designated areas and required smokers to walk 25 feet away from enclosed spaces to smoke.
The need for this stringent action arises since the UAE falls short on curbing the tobacco menace through proper taxation and implementation of other preventive measures as required by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
"According to the WHO, we fall in the red zone since we do not have the required taxation and other preventive measures in place that can make the UAE fully tobacco free," said Dr Wedad Al Maidoor, manager of the Tobacco Control Programme at the Ministry of Health and Prevention.
"By completely banning smoking in public, we will meet this criteria partly," she said speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an event held to mark No Tobacco Day on Tuesday.
The UAE currently only has 100 per cent excise tax on tobacco. Talks on imposing another 100 per cent 'health tax' have been ongoing despite the GCC countries having given the nod.
As reported by Khaleej Times in February, the ministry is still working out mechanics of the implementation of 'secret agents' who will report people smoking in non-designated areas. "This idea was discussed before but still not implemented because it needs some arrangements of technical issues such as where one can report smoking in public? who should investigate the complaint? who should follow the report? and how the fine can be implemented and collected?," said Dr Hussain Al Rand, Assistant Undersecretary for Health Centres and Clinics.

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