Anti-tobacco law violators to be fined from today

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Anti-tobacco law violators to be fined from today Asma Ali Zain, Amira Agarib and Sajila Saseendran / 21 January 2014 Main offenders targeted by the authorities include smokers in cars with children, people selling cigarettes to minors, and shisha joints operating in restricted areas. Violators of the UAE’s anti-tobacco law will be fined from today as the executive regulations of the law come into effect. Enforcement agencies across the emirates are entitled to impose fines and other penalties on a wider group of violators of the executive bylaws of the Federal Law. Main offenders targeted by the authorities include smokers in cars with children, people selling cigarettes to minors, and shisha joints operating in restricted areas. Anyone caught smoking in a car with children will be fined Dh500. A repeat offence will attract a Dh1,000 fine. Fines ranging from Dh100,000 to Dh1 million will be slapped on violators of prohibitions in commercial establishments. However, the UAE’s anti-tobacco crusader feels most of the government bodies assigned to implement the regulations are “only partly” ready to get tough on violators. The Head of the National Tobacco Control Committee at the Ministry of Health (MoH), Dr Wedad Al Maidoor, said the authorities may not be fully ready for enforcement of the tobacco bylaws today. “I also don’t expect the enforcement to be strict initially,” she said. The implementation of the executive bylaws approved by the Cabinet on July 21 last year means public places become 100 per cent smoke-free, and ban on tobacco advertisement comes into effect, among other regulations — such as tobacco packaging — that have already been implemented. They also include stringent curbs on sale of cigarettes and shisha, mainly meant to protect the health of the younger generation. The regulations drafted by the MoH will now be implemented by the municipalities, police and economic departments of all the emirates. Dr Wedad said enforcement shows the government’s seriousness in protecting the people from the harms of tobacco. Salem bin Mesmar, Assistant Director-General of the Dubai Municipality for Environment, Health and Safety Sector, said the enforcement of the bylaws did not mean the municipality would jump and attack shisha cafes and other commercial outlets. “We are working on it (enforcement) and we are chalking out a plan to make the implementation smooth. But nobody can now claim that they were not aware of the implementation of the laws from today. We had run advertisements about the date of implementation of the laws and issued a comprehensive guide book on the regulations.” He said inspectors from the Department of Public Health and Safety would now be stricter in acting against the violators. The official warned outlets that they need a special permit to serve shisha. Shisha cafes, he said, cannot operate in residential areas or areas close to places of worship and educational institutes. Tougher regulations on shisha smoking are expected to bring about a change in the culture of smoking in the local society. However, the municipality, Mesmar said, is yet to find out how many outlets operate within the restricted areas. “We will be doing a survey on this at least by next week and if they have not moved from such places, we will take action,” he said. The official added that the anti-tobacco local orders previously implemented by the municipality would now be replaced by the federal regulations. This will mean a change in the minimum age for sale of cigarettes and tobacco products in Dubai. The previous local order had prohibited shops in the emirate from selling tobacco products to those under 20. The municipality had also barred those under 20 from entering the designated smoking areas in public places. However, these prohibitions will now be applicable only to the under 18 group as per the Federal Law. Health experts have praised its provision to fine anyone found smoking in cars with children under 12. This clause of the bylaw will now be implemented by the Ministry of Interior. The Dubai Police said it had already been issuing a fine of Dh500 on drivers for throwing cigarette butts out of car windows and four black points. This is in addition to the same amount of fine slapped on motorists for throwing waste out of cars. With the bylaws coming into effect, the police can now slap another Dh500 fine on people smoking in the presence of children in the cars. However, a senior police official said the police are yet to receive any update on enforcing the bylaws from today. When asked about this, Dr Wedad said the ministry had sent a copy and a letter to each of the departments responsible for the enforcement when the bylaws were issued. “It clearly explained what was expected of them from today…but I think we will need to send out reminders.” The second step the government intends to take now is to increase cigarette prices, said Dr Wedad. “We hope this can be done through enforcement of taxation on tobacco.” For more news from Khaleej Times, follow us on Facebook at , and on Twitter at @khaleejtimes Continue reading →

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