Coffee shops relying heavily on sheesha (hookah) smokers will have to leave UAE towns and other residential areas to distant places as part of an anti-smoking law to be enforced shortly, an official was reported on Saturday as saying.
Once the federal law is ratified by the cabinet, cafes will be given a six-month deadline to either shut down and move away or dismantle their hookah tools and restrict their service to refreshments and hot drinks.
“We will give them at least six months to get in line with the anti-smoking law to be approved soon by the cabinet,” said Dr Widad Almaidour, director of the anti-smoking team at the Ministry of Health.
“The law is clear…all these coffee shops which serve sheesha for its customers will have to shift outside residential areas to industrial zones,” she was quoted as saying by the semi official Arabic language daily 'Al Ittihad'.
The paper quoted sources at the Abu Dhabi municipality, which willenforce the anti-smoking law on restaurants and cafes, as saying inspectors would deploy through cities to ensure all those places abide by the new law.
The sources said coffee shops have already been banned from extending their services to pavements and other areas outside their premises."We have issued 55 notices against cafes which violated these rules so far this year…inspection will be intensified once the anti-smoking law is enforced to ensure all relevant places leave residential areas,” one source said.
In recent statements, Dr Almaidour said the ministry is also considering extending the smoking at public places to hotel rooms and restaurants. “We are considering a decision allowing smoking only outside the closed buildings in general. The Ministry of Health and other competent authorities are now discussing this plan with the hotels. The new decision means that smoking rooms at hotels must be outside the hotel building while the current rules allow smoking inside the hotel rooms,” she said.
“We are considering this move because medical and scientific studies have shown that no ventilation system can separate smoke from other places.”’ She said the new rules could cover restaurants, which will be asked to assign smoking areas away from restaurant premises exceeding 1,000 square metres.