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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 2 March 2021

Smoking ban should only be the first step

The current price of a pack of cigarettes is far too cheap if the goal is to get the Emirates off nicotine.
When implemented, the UAE's smoking ban will be a boon to public health. Smoking has severe and demonstrable effects on a person's health, and so-called "second-hand smoke" in most studies has been shown to adversely impact the health of those in a smoker's presence. The new law benefits both the smokers, by encouraging them to quit, and the passive inhaler, by reducing their exposure. Of particular merit are those measures designed to protect children. The restrictions placed on the sale of tobacco to children and the ban on smoking in vehicles containing children under 12 are welcome. These are the sorts of efforts that will make a real impact on the level of smoking in the UAE. Smoking is addictive, therefore the best way to stop people from smoking is to prevent them from starting.

By that same line of reasoning, the ban on smoking in public places and the restrictions placed on the location of shisha cafes will have only a limited impact on current smokers. People addicted to nicotine almost always will seek out venues to satiate their cravings. Whether this means stepping outside during a meal or travelling out of your way for a shisha fix, these regulations will inconvenience, but not discourage, the addicted.

Encouraging an addict to quit requires more drastic measures, such as raising the price of tobacco products. The current price of a pack of cigarettes is far too cheap if the goal is to get the Emirates off nicotine. At Dh7, cigarettes are well within the reach of most budgets. Doubling and even tripling the price of a pack is not enough. To encourage smokers to quit, cigarettes must become at least more expensive than a fast-food meal. In the UK and in many cities in the US, a pack of cigarettes costs around Dh40. This exorbitant pricing has done more to help smokers kick the habit than any prohibitions on public smoking.

There will always be limits on the ability of government to shape personal choice. What the authorities can do is limit the negative impact on others of the poor choices that adults make for themselves. The current measures, laudable though they are, can only be the first steps. Making smoking an oppressively expensive habit should be considered along with the Government's proposed smoking ban.

Published: January 8, 2010 04:00 AM