On Tuesday, The Peninsula published news stating that Qatar is a leading country which strictly regulates the manufacture and use of all kinds of tobacco – in the past and in the future – by trying to implement the objectives set by the World Health Organisation under the UN, which aims at controlling tobacco and its use.
The news was published on the occasion of the “No Tobacco Day’, which will be observed on Thursday,May 31, 2007, and is sponsoRed annually by WHO.
WHO’s objective is to generate the awareness of the dangers of tobacco use and also to encourage the respective governments to strictly regulate the tobacco use besides urging smokers to quit smoking because its deadly effects.
Smoking, unfortunately, has greatly spread in many forms among our youth, the most prominent of which is the “shesha”, hubbly-bubbly, or “Jerak”, which are found in many cafes, restaurants, hotels, clubs, and on the corniche.
Even Souq Waqif, which is One of the historical landmarks of the city centre, was not banned from shesha smoking. Cafes are not just satisfied by lining up shesha tables all over; they also have trespassed the pavements, the nearby areas and across the passes of the pathways, which compel the pedestrians to inhale the nasty smell of tobacco.
WHO says that More than five million perSons die every year because of tobacco related diseases, at the rate of nine people every minute, and that 50 thousand adolescents join the list of smokers every day in Asia? When we talk about smoking, we mean here Cigarettes and its derivatives. The ‘shesha’ is far worse and More dangerous than Cigarettes. In a recent scientific study it is proven that shesha smoke contains a 20 double-fold of carbon monoxide and higher levels of nicotine and tar, and More than five thousand chemicals. Smoking just One shesha equals smoking 50-60 Cigarettes, whereas the cigarette smokers can smoke while they are engaged in their works, but the shesha smoker, on the contrary, spends hours sucking shesha relaxing on his chair.
I do not know on what data the Peninsula relied on when Qatar has taken the lead role in strictly regulating smoking, while we see that there is a level of ignorance and carelessness vis-a-vis combating smoking.
Unfortunately, the state directly promotes such weed by granting licences to these cafes which moved from narrow Streets and private chatting circles to clubs, hotels and public places, and it is largely lethargic in executing and enforcing the law in this concern by getting rid of this dangerous phenomenon, which greatly irks parents that their Sons have become addicted to shesha smoking for long hours, by day and night!
Qatar was the first country in the Gulf region to launch an integrated law to combat smoking, which was lauded by many international and regional authorities and organisations.
However, issuing a law is something and executing it is something else. The law prohibits, and I am quoting here from Health Journal, Volume 23, issued by Hamad Medical Corporation – smoking in closed places, which include public transportations, schools, universities, hospitals, health centres, ministries, government authorities, departments and services, clubs, theatres, cinema houses and restaurants. And in all these places we find that the law is merely ink on paper!
The law prohibits selling Cigarettes to those who are less than 18 year olds, whereas we find that studies say that 46 per cent of students are smokers who buy Cigarettes from stores and groceries. Enforcement of Law is almost absent and punishments are easy to ignore by Cigarettes’ vendors or cafes’ owners, because when Al Rayan Municipality made a crackdown on 15 cafes that served shesha, violation notices have been issued to nine cafes, and the remaining 6 cafes have been just warned, i e 15 out of 15!
One of the officials says that we were winning the war on smoking by seeing a Reduction in the quantities of imported tobacco in the country, yet the situation has changed after the entry of huge quantities of hOneyed-tobacco (Ma’ssal and Jerak), which is on the rise.
It appears, God only knows, that combating smoking by the concerned authorities is only restricted to Cigarettes, and it does not include the shesha, because a statement made by One of the municipality officials concerning no issuance of new licenses to open cafes for smoking shesha, is contradicted by the scenes of new cafes which serve shesha with various flavors!
The state here is like One who fires at his own foot, because it makes it soft on smoking affairs, whereas it bears the burden of spending tremendous amounts of mOney on providing cures for smoking related diseases.
In a study prepaRed by “Environment Friends” Centre, some years a go, it revealed that Qatar spends a lot of mOney because of smoking, for it collects taxes it imposes on tobacco with 100 per cent of the value of tobacco imports with a revenue of $20m every year, yet the cost medical services for treating smoking related diseases is More than $150m every year, in addition to what the state spends on the services of monitoring tobacco imports (ports, customs and health), and on smoking disposables, and some other environmental losses.
Traffic Department these days hangs signs and ads on traffic posts warning against of car accidents, which end with the phrase: “We are all responsible”. Indeed, we are all responsible, but the first responsibility lies with those who have the power of law enforcement and executive authorities. The state must realise the risks and dangers of smoking on both the individual and the society, and it must be convinced with the necessity of combating smoking on all aspects and with all its means and powers. Therefore, it must play its role in supporting the institutions that combat this phenomenon.