Anger at smoking near entrances of shopping centres

 20 Mar 2017 - 0:31

Anger at smoking near entrances of shopping centres

By Sanaullah Ataullah / The Peninsula

Smoking in public places and inside shopping centres has drastically dropped over the past few years, thanks to the government’s crackdown. However, many residents have raised concern over the increasing number of smokers puffing away at the entrances of shopping malls and other public locations.

The Peninsula noticed that shopping malls allowed their visitors to smoke cigarettes and pipes freely at the entrances of their facilities.

“We do not have a designated area for smoking at the facility so you can smoke there – barely a few metres from the entrance and butt out in the dustbin,” a security man at a shopping complex in the Old Airport area said when he was asked about the smoking policy of the complex.

Some facilities placed ashtrays outside, near the entrances, an open invitation to the visitors and employees to smoke. However, a number of people The Peninsula spoke to registered their discontent over the authority’s laxity in stopping this tendency.

However, last week, the Central Municipal Council (CMC) discussed a proposal seeking a ban on smoking at the entrances of shopping complexes across the country . The proposal was submitted by Abdurrahman Abdullah Al Khulaifi, a CMC Member.

“There is a phenomenon of smoking cigarettes at the entrances and exits of shopping complexes,” said Al Khulaifi in his proposal.

“The visitors of such facilities, including children, women and senior citizens, faced the risk of passive smoking. They are forced to inhale nicotine-filled air. In addition, the practice leaves a bad impression on visitors to such facilities. The stickers, bill boards and banners, placed on the buildings of service complexes, commercial facilities and workplaces of public and private sector, warning against the risks of smoking could not influence the behaviour of the smoker,” his proposal said.

Therefore, Al Khulaifi demanded an appropriate solution to curb the practice. The CMC discussed the proposal and referred it to its services committee and the legal committee to look into the issue and submit a comprehensive report.

“I have been living in Qatar for more than 20 years and over the last few years, I have noticed that most of the shopping centres, malls and supermarkets are free of cigarette smoke, which is a laudable achievement of the concerned authorities. However, now a major hurdle is getting inside these places without inhaling a wisp of the tobacco smoke. It is very difficult when you go shopping with children,” said a long-time Qatar resident.

According to experts, breathing in other people's smoke, called second-hand smoke, can cause a number of health hazards. Second-hand smoke is the smoke that fills restaurants, offices or other enclosed spaces when people burn tobacco products which include cigarettes 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, according to the World Health Organisation.

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. 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.

WHO says second-hand smoke causes more than 600,000 premature deaths per year. In pregnant women, it causes low birth weight.

However, every person should be able to breathe tobacco smoke-free air.

“It is very difficult to avoid breathing in tobacco-smoke at public places especially at the entrance of big shopping malls,” said Anas, a young Arab national.

“Recently I had to wait in front of a mall entrance for some time. A number of people were smoking there and a few women were covering their faces so that they could avoid inhaling most of the smoke. The whole area smelt of cigarettes,” he added.

“Usually, families including women and children wait for their vehicles after shopping in front of entrances. They usually have no other option except to wait and inhale the smoke, while waiting for their vehicle. And many at times, there are pregnant women and very young children,” said Mohamad Mustafa, a Pakistan national, expressing his anger against the practice.

Even non-smokers are forced to inhale the cigarette smoke while waiting at these places, since most of these facilities do not have designated smoking zones.

“I am not a smoker, but I have all the health issues similar to a smoker. I am a victim of passive smoking,” said Murad.

“I am a regular visitor to a cafeteria operating at a major shopping mall where people smoke sitting right under the ‘no-smoking’ stickers. Once I asked the manager of the cafeteria to tell the visitors that the smoking inside the facility is prohibited and it affected to non-smokers. The manger meekly said that they knew about the law but they would not heed,” he said.

Meanwhile, in June 2016, the State Cabinet had taken steps to issue the much-anticipated anti-tobacco law that stipulates stricter punishment for smoking in closed public places. The draft law stipulated strict measures to curb the import and use of tobacco products and its derivatives and a ban on electronic cigarettes, “sweika” and other chewing tobacco.