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Almost a year on Abu Dhabi smoking ban is still confusing

Last July, an indoor ban on smoking in mall cafes and restaurants across Abu Dhabi resulted in confusion; some premises were fined, others continued to allow their customers to smoke without any warnings.

ABU DHABI // The implementation of the draft federal anti-tobacco law No 15 - issued in early 2009 by President Sheikh Khalifa - has been sporadic and uneven.

Last July, an indoor ban on smoking in mall cafes and restaurants across Abu Dhabi resulted in confusion. Some premises were fined, others continued to allow their customers to smoke without any warnings.

Fines ranged between Dh2,000 and Dh8,000, depending on how often the ban was defied - but the numbers have varied. Some cafes received on-the-spot Dh3,000 fines shortly after the ban was introduced.

The ban was still to be fully introduced by last October, leaving many proprietors in the dark.

Smoking has been banned in Dubai malls for almost a decade. In 2008, The National reported that shisha cafes in residential areas in Dubai were to enforce a ban on outdoor smoking.

Last August, it was announced that all imported cigarette and tobacco products should display one of three graphic warnings, all approved by the Cabinet.

Sellers were given a grace period of several months to sell their old stock, with a final deadline being introduced on January 1 this year. Any shops found selling old cigarette packets after this time could face being fined tens of thousands of dirhams, said the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology.

Plans to increase the price of cigarettes - a move that comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance - are still being discussed with the Ministry of Health.

Confusion looks certain to continue after Sharjah Municipality announced an immediate ban on the sale of cigarettes in grocery stores located in residential areas or near schools - regulations many shop owners are unaware of. The ban has yet to be made in other emirates.

zalhassani@thenational.ae

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