x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Shisha smokers in parks and on beaches to face fines

People who continue to flout laws banning shisha smoking in public places could face fines, Dubai Municipality officials warned yesterday.

Colourful shisha pipes, soon to be gone from parks.
Colourful shisha pipes, soon to be gone from parks.

DUBAI // People who continue to flout laws banning shisha smoking in public places could face fines, Dubai Municipality officials warned yesterday. Ahmed Abdul Karim, director of the public parks and horticulture department, said inspectors had stopped more than 2,500 people from smoking shisha during spot checks in parks and on beaches over the past month. While no fines were imposed, he said, future offenders may face financial penalties. During the inspections, people visiting parks with shisha equipment were asked either to leave it behind or to take it home.

Mr Karim said the spot checks were conducted over the last four weeks at six major public parks in the city as well as at the Jumeirah Open Beach and other beaches. "We know that at least 167 people returned from the park gate when we informed them that they cannot smoke shisha inside," Mr Karim said. Most people were cooperative, he said, but action was taken against some people who did not respond to requests.

"We confiscated shishas in at least two instances where people were hostile," Mr Karim said. "We will start fining people later if they do not follow regulations." Dubai Municipality announced four weeks ago that shisha smoking would be banned in all public places as part of the city's attempts to curb smoking in general. Last year the municipality banned shisha cafes in residential areas. In mixed commercial and residential areas, cafes had to move smoking indoors and make changes to their ventilation systems. Outdoor shisha cafes in other areas must now have special licences. Those caught flouting the rules face heavy fines and even closure.

Salem bin Mesmar, assistant director-general of the health, safety and environment department, said the decision had been taken to protect children who visit public parks, beaches and other recreational areas with their families. Open shisha smoking would send children a wrong message, he said. Meanwhile, regular shisha smokers expressed disappointment over the inspections and urged the municipality to relax the rules. Jameel Karim, a self-employed Lebanese national based in Dubai, said he was stopped from using shisha at Al Safa Park last Friday.

"I go to the park every weekend with my family to have shisha and relax," he said. "This time they did not let us smoke shisha. This is just something we do to enjoy and relax after lunch. It is not acceptable that this is banned." Others, however, welcomed the decision. "Our children play at these parks, and we must ensure that they are safe and healthy," said Vidyut Kumar, a Karama resident. "This is a good step to clear the air at parks and beaches."

pmenon@thenational.ae