Residents may not think twice about buying a pack of cigarettes from their friendly neighbourhood grocery, but these stores are violating a federal law that prohibits them from selling tobacco products.
Six out of 10 such facilities that were visited during the past week in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman, sold cigarette packs, while some went further and displayed them on their shelves. A couple of stores had the packs hidden under the counter and sold them only to their regular customers.
The National Anti-Tobacco Law, which was issued earlier this year, states that trade licence will not be issued to cafes or similar outlets selling any type of tobacco or its products inside residential buildings or quarters or places near them.
Municipal officials said they cannot implement the rule as they have not been issued with a guideline.
A senior Dubai Municipality official told Emirates 24|7 that the notification regarding the implementation of the federal law has not yet been issued to various municipalities. “The modalities are yet to be worked out and the implementation will start, only after all the municipalities are informed as to how to proceed,” he said.
One salesperson at a grocery in Nad Al Hamar in Dubai, said: “We were specially told that the licence for the shop will be withdrawn if we continued to sell cigarettes, especially because we are located close to a mosque,” he said.
“Customers keep asking us for the product. We do not want to lose our customers as many of them come only to purchase cigarettes. I give it to them provided they are alone in the shop,” he added.
Another shop owner in Hor Al Anz said he had to hide cigarettes after a recent warning from Dubai Municipality. “I only sell them to known customers,” he said.
In Sharjah, however, shops continue to display cigarette packs on shelves. “We are not aware of any such ban,” said the owner of a store located on the ground floor of an apartment building.
Stores have also been banned from selling loose cigarettes as part of GCC-wide guidelines formulated on advertising and promotional restrictions of tobacco products.
The move is part of a wide range of anti-smoking measures taken by the government to discourage youngsters from smoking. While a majority of the stores in Dubai continue to observe this rule, many in Sharjah continue to sell loose cigarettes.
The prohibition on smoking in Dubai was implemented in three phases. Smoking was banned in supermarkets and commercial centres from September 15, 2007.
It was extended to all cafes and restaurants from November 2007. It was further extended to hotels, including resorts, motels and hotel apartments.
Following Dubai’s initiatives a nationwide decree was implemented at the beginning of this year.
The President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler of Abu Dhabi, introduced an extensive anti-tobacco law that includes a fine of up to Dh1 million for violations apart from a two-year jail term.
Fines will also be issued to those smoking in a car whose passengers include children less than 12 years of age. All forms of advertising of tobacco products have also been prohibited.
Meanwhile, Redha Salman, Director of Public Health and Safety at Dubai Municipality said that Dubai Municipality will continue to strictly impose all anti-smoking mechanisms.
He, however, added that there are no immediate plans to add more regulations.
“For now we will continue with the measures that are in place. Extending the smoking ban to areas such as the open beach etc., will have to wait,” he said.