Secondhand smokers in Qatar get the wrong end of the stick
- Vani Saraswathi
- On June 1, 2014
Not that there is a right end of the stick when it comes to smoking. A quick survey conducted by JustHere revealed that about 1 in every 10 workplaces allowed smoking within the office, and 7 in every 10 had a segregated space. Only about 2 in 10 workplaces followed a zero-tolerance policy.
It is not always comfortable getting into an argument on smoking with colleagues. While over half of the respondents who smoke said they would put out the cigarette if someone protested, 15% said they would ignore or ask the complainant to move.
Of the non-smokers, 75% of the respondents said they would either protest or walk-out of the smoking environment, while 25% said they would ‘zip up and put up’. However, over 40% are not comfortable speaking up against smoking in workplaces.
A respondent who prefers to remain unnamed says in her workplace smoking was allowed in a few rooms, and long meetings ended in severe eye irritation, sore throat and a headache, as most people in the room would be smoking.
Opening of windows (in response to protests) was a gesture that helped very little, if at all, in making it breathable in the room, she adds.
Our survey covered a small sample size, but gives an overall idea on attitude towards smoking, and in particular secondhand smoking in Qatar. (See sidebar on GATS survey)
Lack of awareness; children, pregnant women most vulnerable
Dr Ahmed Mohammed Al Mulla of the Smoking Cessation Clinic at HMC says most residents in Qatar are unaware of the degree to which secondhand smoking affects your health.
Speaking to JustHere he stresses that secondhand smoking, especially in a group, is far more harmful than if you were smoking yourself. “Imagine being in a room with 5-6 smokers and you inhale all of the smoke.”
The lack of awareness on the harms of secondhand smoking is evident in the responses of those surveyed. Some felt it was acceptable if there was a segregated smoking spaces, but this is not really effective. As the Canadian Lung Association highlights, Second-hand smoke can drift under doors and through open windows, vents and electrical outlets. Drifting tobacco smoke is a problem for many people who live in multi-unit buildings as renters or as owners.
Smokers account for over a third of the country’s population which means a large number of children are exposed to secondhand smoke too.
Dr Mulla says HMC deals with many cases of bronchial asthma amongst children, which does not respond to treatment. Investigations reveal that the children are regularly exposed to secondhand smoking, because of their parents.
There is no safe level of exposure, and complete ban indoors is a must, he says.
See this tweet from Doha-based journalist Victoria Scott:
.@FordMiddleEast have given me a free hire car while they fix my car AC – good. But I had ask their GM to stop smoking in the office – bad.
— Victoria Scott (@Toryscott) May 25, 2014
She is pregnant but was not afforded the courtesy and right of a smoke-free environment, until she demanded it.
Tracy Glenn, a registered nurse and a resident at The Pearl, has been struggling with secondhand smoke as well, and complaints to management has gone unheeded she says. “None of the tenants should be forced to breathe in secondhand smoke because a neighbour does not care about their own health consequences from smoking. My flat should not allow smoke to enter from the hallways either. If there was another fire in Tower 19 our flats would be filled with smoke very quickly. As you must know, it is smoke that kills people in a fire first. The doors should not have a large gap under them. This could be easily resolved with weather stripping tacked to the bottom of the door inside,” she wrote in her formal complaint, that she shared with JustHere. She has received no response to the complaint.
Anti-smoking law not enforced
Qatar is planning to tighten its Anti-Smoking laws and step up its implementation. As it stands, there is a ban on smoking in most closed spaces.
However, there is poor implementation, and residents have been complaining about smoking in certain malls in the country. Starbucks in Landmark and Villaggio is often cited for not asking patrons to stop smoking.
Tagssmoking in qatar
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