BY RAYNALD C RIVERA
DOHA: Wary of their bad side effects, many supermarkets in Doha have stopped selling cologne products popular among low-income workers who use them as intoxicant due to their high alcohol content, The Peninsula has learnt.
A random inquiry by this reporter in supermarkets located along the Old Airport, Msheireb and Al Asmakh areas — known to have high concentration of low-income workers — found that one out of 10 supermarkets surveyed sold Luma, a popular cologne workers use as substitute for alcoholic beverage.
“We are not selling that (Luma) anymore because some expatriates from Asian countries are drinking them,” said a storekeeper of a supermarket in Old Airport Area.
For many years, low-income single workers here have bought colognes to consume as a replacement for alcohol as Qatar, like other Muslim countries, does not sanction sale of alcohol in retail shops.
Only big hotels and Qatar Distribution Company are allowed to sell alcohol, the latter requiring a licence which demands a minimum salary not met by these workers.
Although there are other brands such as Luna, Blue Moon and New Moon, Luma is preferred by these workers because it is cheap at QR13.
It does not have strong fragrant and instead has a subtle smell, so workers take it by mixing it with coke.
“Some workers come to us to buy it but I always tell them that we have stopped selling for a long time because of news of cases leading to severe health problems, including damage to internal organs such as the kidneys,” said a shopkeeper in Al Asmakh.
Independent studies have shown that there are potentially harmful chemicals in many popular fragrances which can cause irritability, vagueness, muscle pain, asthma, bloating, joint aches, fatigue, sore throat, eye irritation and gastrointestinal problems, among others.
“It was our decision to stop selling the cologne and not because of some warning from the government,” said, a shopkeeper in Msheireb area.
He said that he had heard of reports of workers getting into serious health problems due to habitually drinking it.
Recently the Ministry of Environment announced that by April 1 this year, it would impose new regulations for the import and sale of alcohol-based perfumes like cologne to prevent their misuse and potential health hazards.
“Some supermarkets are still selling the cologne, though secretly,” said a shopkeeper in Old Airport area.
He said that the cologne was never displayed on shelves at shops for fear of getting checked by Baladiya.
He said that the cologne was in demand especially during weekends, but like others, he wouldn’t sell it just for profit.
“Workers have turned to drinking this cologne because they can’t afford alcohol as a licence is required to buy it,” he added.
There had been reports of people with liquor licence profiting by selling alcohol at exorbitant prices.