DOHA: Long criticised for non-existent enforcement of anti-smoking law, Qatar’s public health authorities have swung into action and handed out fines to some 829 people so far this year for lighting up in public places.
And the fines the health inspectors collected from the violators totalled an impressive
QR319,000 — which means that on average a smoker caught paid QR385 in fine.
The places raided by the inspectors included popular hangouts like the City Centre, The Mall, Villaggio, Hyatt Plaza, Landmark and Royal Plaza, among others.
Interestingly, the health inspectors didn’t spare government offices, including ministry buildings, and raided them as well and caught violators.
Responsible for ensuring a smoke-free Qatar, the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) said in a release yesterday that inspectors from its anti-tobacco unit conducted 1,330 raids between January and mid-November this year at public places where smoking is banned.
The SCH has reiterated in its release it would intensify monitoring and conduct more raids, especially as many violators were caught in shops located closer to schools.
The SCH campaign assumes significance as it comes ahead of a law that is reported to be on the anvil, and, which many expect, could see the mushrooming ‘sheesha’ joints, especially in residential localities and near schools, close down.
During the latest anti-tobacco campaign of the SCH, however, what is surprising is that no ‘sheesha’ outlet has been raided by its inspectors and no fines have been handed out to users to ‘sheesha’ addicts, who, understandably, also include an increasing number of women and children.
The current anti-tobacco law is described by anti-smoking activists as weak and lacking teeth as the punitive measures provided for are not deterring enough.
Official figures suggest that some 16 percent of the Qatari population is addicted to smoking, and that includes
‘sheesha’ as well.
School students aren’t immune. A survey has recently been conducted by public health authorities to determine the extent to which smoking is prevalent in schools.
Its findings are expected to help the SCH come up with ways that are effective enough in fighting this menace among youngsters.
The authorities have recently made it mandatory for cigarette packets being sold in the local market to carry graphic images of deadly ailments smoking can cause, but its impact on the prevalence of smoking in the country is yet to be assessed.
Some youngsters, instead of kicking the habit, have begun buying small steel — and sometimes silver — boxes so they could shift the cigarettes from what is a repulsive looking pack to a