x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

New ruling on shisha smoking

Owners say the rules are too confusing and refuse to make changes, but they will face heavy fines and even closure if they fail to make changes.

Moustafa Ramadan prepares shisha in an Abu Dhabi Cafe.
Moustafa Ramadan prepares shisha in an Abu Dhabi Cafe.

DUBAI // Cafes in Dubai face heavy fines and even closure when new rules restricting the smoking of shisha come into effect tomorrow because many have failed to make the necessary changes. The rules ban the smoking of shisha outside many cafes. Where smoking is allowed indoors, new ventilation regulations will apply.

However, Dubai Municipality said many businesses would fall short on the new rules. Rehda Salmain, the head of health and safety at the municipality, said: "Hotels and shopping centres have been very good while some cafes in residential areas have not made changes. "We have been visiting these places throughout Dubai and asking them to comply before the grace period ends." The municipality rules state that the smoking of shisha in cafes in residential areas has been banned outright.

Mixed commercial and residential areas allow indoor use with the correct ventilation but outdoor smoking is banned. The rules do not affect cafes in designated tourism zones. The shisha rules follow general smoking regulations introduced in May last year. Smoking was banned in public offices, shopping centres, restaurants and hotels. The ban was later extended to billiard and snooker halls, internet cafes and online gaming centres.

Shisha cafe owners were given a year's grace to move their businesses or make changes to comply with the new laws. However, owners of cafes and restaurants in Dubai Marina, an area popular with shisha smokers, said the laws were confusing. Salda Kaldun, owner of Al Hakawati Cafe, said: "I am not going to make any changes because the law is unclear. "It kept changing and I still don't know what I have to do. I will wait for a clearer law until I will make the changes."

Another restaurant owner, who did not wish to be identified, said the municipality had failed to tell him what he must do. "The laws keep changing and maybe it is because we are in a freezone. I believe this is a residential area but it can also be commercial because there are some businesses near by." Angela Kirwan, 31, a non-smoker from South Africa, welcomed the laws. "I've been here two years now and I have seen a major difference in smoking habits here. People are more aware of smoking since the bans came in and I am glad it is spreading to other parts of society," she said.

eharnan@thenational.ae