May 4, 2010 - Even as the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) has intensified its campaign against smoking in public places, a large number of nationals and residents feel that the measures taken by the authorities to combat this menace are far from satisfactory.
Background:In an online survey conducted by Al Sharq, the majority of respondents (58 percent) said they were not satisfied with the ongoing SCH campaign and called for stricter measures against those violating the anti-tobacco law in the country.
While the prevalence of smoking in the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf is 30-50%, national health data in Qatar, the second smallest country in the Persian Gulf with a total population of more than 724,125, reported that the prevalence of smoking is 37% among males and 0.6 % among females according to the Gulf Family Health Survey (GFHS) in 1999.
The first comprehensive law concerning the control of tobacco and its derivates in Qatar has been put into force in 2002. The Law number 20 of 2002 encompasses a range of legislative measures starting from smoking bans in enclosed public places, banning advertising for tobacco products, prohibition of selling tobacco products to minors, and other measures (as shown in Table-1).
Table-1 Tobacco control law in Qatar- The law number 20 of 2002
1. Smoking ban in all enclosed public places including public transportation, public workplace, educational institutes, health care premises, and recreation places such as cinemas and theaters.
2. Ban of tobacco advertisement in mass media and billboards.
3. No sell for tobacco products to minors (any person under 18-year old).
4. No sell for tobacco product within 500-meters around the school.
5. No vending machines for cigarettes to be allowed in the country.
6. No tobacco to be cultivated in the country.
7. One fourth of pack size to be dedicated for health warning labels on diseased caused by smoking.
8. Two percent of revenue of taxation on tobacco products to be used in tobacco control and health education programs.
Read more: Tobacco Control in Qatar, Mohamed Ghaith AL-Kuwari, MBBS, ABCM, FPHM (firstname.lastname@example.org) Senior Specialist in Public Health Medicine (Health Promotion) Secretary General to Qatar Medical Society, Middle East Journal of Family Medicine Volume 6, Issue 6 August 2008, FULL TEXT..
Some pointed out that the ban on smoking had been openly violated in many offices of ministries, companies and institutions. The ban has also become a convenient excuse for some employees to leave their office quite frequently under the pretext of going out to smoke. Some respondents called for imposing stricter penalties for violations of the law. Inspection teams should be formed with members from all communities, and given judicial powers to book the violators, they said.
“People who are authorised to execute the ban fail to do follow-up in this regard due to the lack of a contact mechanism with the regulatory bodies,” said Mubarak Saleh Salim a member of the Central Municipal Council (CMC), while reacting to the survey results. The CMC had proposed establishing special offices in shopping malls to deal with complaints from consumers as well as those related with smoking in public places. It had also proposed putting up signboards in shopping malls warning people against smoking and displaying the telephone numbers of the offices in charge of the smoking ban.
The respondents also called for unified efforts by the SCH, the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning and the managements of shopping malls to effectively implement the ban. Managements of eateries have been urged to support such efforts by advising their customers and notifying the authorities about violations.
Reference: Anti-smoking measures insufficient: Survey, Web posted at: 5/2/2010 3:29:9, Source: THE PENINSULA - Qatar's leading English Daily.
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