x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Getting tough on an antisocial habit

Antismoking legislation will benefit all. It's up to us, those who smoke and those who don't, to act responsibly and obey the law.

New, tough antismoking legislation will come into effect in this country next year.

One of the cornerstones of that law, which is targeted at reducing rates of smoking in the nation's youth, is a ban on smoking in vehicles when a child younger than 12 years old is a passenger in the car.

There is no doubt that passive smoking has adverse effects on those exposed to it - and children are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of second-hand smoke.

According to World Health Organisation statistics, 31 per cent of those who die from diseases related to passive smoking are children. They are at a greater risk as they have smaller lungs and a less-developed immune system.

Separately, other studies have shown that tobacco smoke pollution in a vehicle can be much higher than air pollution caused by exhaust emissions, even when one or more windows is open in the car.

Children are often helpless victims, because unlike adults they can neither get out of the car at will, nor make a choice about whether to smoke or not. That is why such a law is welcome, even if it is difficult to enforce.

Some point to existing legislation that targets those who throw litter out of cars and excessive tinting on car windows, which is rarely invoked.

But that line of thought ignores the powerful statement such laws send out to smokers about their antisocial habit.

Elsewhere in the world, government policies to ban smoking in public places, to regulate advertisements of tobacco products and raise tariffs on them, have helped millions of smokers kick the habit.

It is expected that the UAE's new legislation - which also bans any cigarette advertising and places restrictions on imports of tobacco - will yield similar results here, where about 28 per cent of nationals under the age of 18 are smokers.

Such legislation benefits everyone. It is up to all of us, those who smoke and non-smokers alike, to act responsibly and obey the law.