ABU DHABI // Shopping-mall cafes and restaurants that allow customers to smoke are to be fined, and repeat offenders face temporary closure.
After an initial written warning, establishments will be fined Dh2,000 for a second offence, Dh4,000 for a third and Dh8,000 for a fourth.
"After that, the coffee shops will be closed down for one month, six months or a year," Khaleefa Al Romaithi, head of public health at Abu Dhabi Municipality, said yesterday. "Smoking should be stopped inside … smoking will be stopped, inshallah."
The fines will begin "let's say from next week", Mr Al Romaithi said.
The tough new policy in the capital marks World No Tobacco Day today. In Dubai, nearly 300 outlets including petrol stations and supermarkets will stop selling tobacco for 24 hours.
"The move is aimed at spreading awareness about the dangers of cigarette smoking," said Redha Salman, director of public health and safety at Dubai Municipality.
"It's to make people think about the dangers of tobacco consumption, as it kills millions of people and affects public health,"
About 52 Emarat and 85 Enoc petrol stations are taking part in the voluntary ban, with supermarket chains including Hyper Panda, Safeer, Spinneys, Carrefour, Choithram, Lulu, Maya, Family, West Zone and J-Mart. More than 50 Lulu outlets across the UAE will not sell tobacco products today.
The new fines in Abu Dhabi are part of efforts to implement the federal anti-tobacco law, which was issued in early 2009 by the President, Sheikh Khalifa, but has been delayed as a result of a number of setbacks.
The head of the National Tobacco Control Committee, Dr Wedad Al Maidour, said a year ago that the number of governing bodies and authorities involved in establishing and perfecting the law had caused the delay.
Once it is finalised, the law will explain the regulations governing what businesses must do in order to have a smoking section, which shisha cafes will be shut down and which will be licensed, and under what circumstances indoor food and drink establishments must apply the smoking ban.
In shopping malls, where a ban is technically already in force, some establishments adhered to it after they received their first warning but many have yet to come on board, said Mr Al Romaithi.
"We do receive complaints from families, on an almost weekly basis, who come across smokers in the malls."
The prospect of the ban being enforced was met with trepidation by cafe and restaurant staff yesterday.
At Abu Dhabi Mall last year, a temporary ban led to a large drop in the number of customers coming to one popular cafe, said the cafe's manager.
For someone who is a regular smoker, the ban will not only stop them going to their favourite cafe, but will also change their shopping habits, he said.
"If I was to go to a mall to buy a laptop, but, at the same time, I wanted to stop and have a cigarette, if the mall was non-smoking, I would go to a different one."
Some smokers in Dubai said it was pointless to stub out their cigarettes for a day, as the municipality campaign has urged. They called for a permanent ban on cigarette sales.
"Stopping for a day has no meaning," Ahmad Roustom said. "I have tried to quit previously, but the easy availability gives me the incentive to buy more."
However, Ramesh Patel of Dubai said he would kick the habit for 24 hours in the spirit of the initiative.
"I will try as much as possible to not buy a packet or smoke. If possible, I will encourage at least one friend to also give up smoking for a day," he said.