Proposal to ban smoking in cars sparks debate

April 23, 2014 - 4:03:46 am

DOHA: A proposed amendment in the country’s anti-tobacco law banning smoking inside cars has triggered angry reaction from citizens, with many  describing it as an infringement of personal freedoms.

Qatari social networking sites have been abuzz with comments on the issue, following newspaper reports on Monday that the amended anti-tobacco law includes a provision banning smoking inside cars. The reports were based on remarks made by an Supreme Council of Health official at a recent workshop in Doha. 

Several members of the Central Municipal Council (CMC) have also joined the debate, calling for a review of the proposal.  

“Smoking in car is like smoking in the house. They have no right to interfere in the private life of people. If they want to stop smoking they should ban import of cigarettes,” read a posting on a popular Qatari social website. “It is better to increase prices of cigarettes to QR100 per packet than banning smoking in cars,” wrote another.

“First they should increase the prices of cigarettes, remove Sheesha from all places and stop creating special areas for smoking at the ministries and other government departments,” was another comment. “My car is my private property and I have full right to smoke inside my car. The UK has implemented a similar law but only when children are aboard. A motorist can smoke if he/she is alone in the car,” said another.

There were also comments in favour of the proposal, but mostly based on safety grounds, rather than the health risks associated with smoking. “The law is good because many motorists throw cigarette butts from the window of their cars without thinking that they might go to other cars on the road. If a  burning cigarette falls on the carpet,  it can cause a fire,” read a posting. “Good news but I wish it would be implemented properly,” said another.

A local Arabic daily yesterday quoted several CMC members arguing against the proposal. According to Mohammed Al Khayarin, this amendment is an encroachment on personal freedoms.  “How are they going to implement this law. Will they use CCTV cameras to spy on motorists or deploy traffic police or inspectors to detect the violations or leave this job to some volunteers? All these options are not practical,” he said.

Another CMC member Ahmed Al Sheeb also felt that the proposal is not logical. “It will create more problems instead of solving the problems. I agree banning smoking in public places and near schools. Banning smoking inside cars is not logical,” he said.

According to Mohammed Shaheen Al Dosari, another CMC member, “ no law in the world has prevented people from smoking in their cars”. “I will support this  only in one case, if someone smokes in the presence of children and women in the car,” he added. 

Another member Mubarak Fresh felt that there is no use of drafting a new law, when the existing law is not properly implemented. The Peninsula

Dr Tahir Shaltout, a psychiatrist at the Hamad Medical Corporation  (HMC) said that the proposal has a positive impact, by preventing people from smoking in some areas and widening the time gap between each cigarette.

“The negative side is that those in charge of implementing the ban would find themselves interfering in a very personal issue and in the privacy of the people. This contradicts with the purpose of the law,” Shaltout told this daily yesterday. 

“Heavy smokers will find it difficult to comply with the law, while it is helpful for those who smoke less,” he added.

The Peninsula