Smoking ban 'needs to go much further' to protect passive smokers, UAE health experts say

DUBAI // Bars, hotels and restaurants are putting the lives of staff and customers at risk by failing to provide no-smoking areas, health experts say. Second-hand smoke causes serious health risks such as heart disease, lung cancer and chronic respiratory problems. Despite a clampdown on public shisha smoking, with rules banning pregnant women from cafes […]

DUBAI // Bars, hotels and restaurants are putting the lives of staff and customers at risk by failing to provide no-smoking areas, health experts say.

Second-hand smoke causes serious health risks such as heart disease, lung cancer and chronic respiratory problems.

Despite a clampdown on public shisha smoking, with rules banning pregnant women from cafes and compulsory anti-smoking advertisements in Dubai, cigarettes are smoked freely in most hotel bars.

The Federal Law on Tobacco Control from 2009 was introduced by Dubai Municipality in 2014 but it only bans smoking in public places such as buses and sports venues, and sale of tobacco products to people under 18 and at cafes and restaurants in residential areas.

There is no provision for smoking in bars, cafes or restaurants away from residential areas.

Nibin Domini, assistant manager at the Belgian Beer Cafe at the Grand Millennium Hotel, said the bar had one small section for non-smokers, but no exhaust fan to remove the smoke.

“In the rest of the bar, customers are free to smoke where they like,” Mr Domini said.

“If smoking was banned here we would lose a lot of customers.

“People come to eat, drink or smoke, so we wouldn’t have anyone left if it was smoke-free.”

Staff in the Media Rotana, Ramee Rose and Byblos hotels, also in Barsha Heights, were equally unsure of smoking regulations.

Some customers said they avoided venues where smoking was allowed.

“I consciously try to avoid going out to bars and restaurants where people smoke indoors,” said Louise Edden, 41, a mother of two in Abu Dhabi.

“I find it very uncomfortable as I’m asthmatic. It affects my chest for days afterwards. It’s got to the point where I try to avoid going to smoky venues completely.”

Dr Rajeev Lochan, a consultant cardiologist at Medeor 24×7 Hospital in Dubai, said statistics on passive smoking showed the effects were similar to those experienced by a regular smoker.

“There is a feeling that passive smoking is not a big risk but the statistics show otherwise,” Dr Lochan said.

“There is a high incidence of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and bronchitis in smokers and passive smokers.

“In the UAE, about 30 per cent of the population is smoking. It is shocking. That creates a significant number of passive smokers.

“Data here is limited but in my experience as a doctor I can see health risks are the same.”

Second-hand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer.

“There is no protection for people who have to work in smoking areas inside bars and hotels,” Dr Lochan said.

“They are at high risk when they are working because they spend a significant amount of time in these smoky areas, so they will be suffering from the health effects of passive smoking.”

Dubai Municipality launched a public service health campaign banning pregnant women from entering shisha cafes even if they did not intend to smoke, and banning young children.

Changes to cigarette packaging to be introduced by the end of the year will expand by 20 per cent graphic photographs warning of health effects.

The last smoking survey by Health Authority Abu Dhabi was conducted in 2011. It found that 19.2 per cent of men and 3.5 per cent of women smoked cigarettes.

Data collected from 728 smokers aged 20 to 29 showed that 185 were regular cigarette smokers. Of 347 aged between 30 and 39, 151 also smoked cigarettes.

E-cigarettes remain banned, despite UK physicians claiming they are safer than regular cigarettes and help people to quit.

The Haad survey showed women constituted 64 per cent of deaths from second-hand smoke, which is also linked to fertility problems, accelerated ageing, decreased bone density, arthritis, cataracts, gum disease and ulcers.

The World Health Organisation has said about 200 million of the world’s billion smokers are women.

nwebster@thenational.ae

Source: uae news

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