Still smoking, just not in public

Municipality seeks support with Health Authority for more extensive anti-smoking action plan.

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AL AIN // Although a campaign by Al Ain Municipality to stop smoking in public has been deemed a success, more people turned to shisha pipes and the number of people smoking cigarettes remained steady. The municipality is calling on the Health Authority - Abu Dhabi to support a more comprehensive anti-smoking campaign than the one implemented in May, when smoking was banned in malls, cinemas and restaurants.

Hotels were given until the end of the year to redesign interiors to allow smoking and non-smoking areas, while coffee shops were allowed to assign designated sections for smokers. Eighty per cent of the city's coffee shops have applied for the smoking zones, saying they will lose business without them. "When the legislation first came into place and the cafes and coffee shops didn't yet have the licence, it did have a noticeable effect on business," said Dr Salim Khalfan, who is leading the Al Ain campaign against smoking. "People who go to these places want somewhere to smoke.

"The number of people smoking shisha has in fact gone up compared to five or 10 years ago," Dr Khalfan said. "It's much worse than smoking cigarettes and is the equivalent to smoking more like a whole packet of them." The municipality is also trying to raise awareness of the dangers of passive smoking. The campaign is targeting young people with initiatives such as school visits and poster campaigns.

"We really need the help of the health authority as we can only work on the city area," Dr Khalfan said. "We need a harsh campaign pointing out the realities of smoking and the impact it has on health, not just of the smoker but of those around them in years to come." Inspectors patrol the city centre and charge cafe and coffee shop owners Dh500-1000 (US$136-$272) if they have not followed the legislation sufficiently with ventilation and closed-in areas.