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JustHere | November 15, 2017

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Secondhand smokers in Qatar get the wrong end of the stick

Secondhand smokers in Qatar get the wrong end of the stick

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.

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JustHere Survey

Does your workplace allow smoking?
Indoors: 11.32%
Segregated space: 67.92%
Zero tolerance: 24.53%

How do you react if a non-smoker protests?
Apologise and put it out: 57.14%
Ask them to move to a diff location: 4.76%
Ignore: 9.52%
Other (please specify): 28.57%
(Response included: Depends on where I was smoking, work culture etc)

Do you think workplaces should allow smoking indoors?
Yes: 4.00%
No: 84.00%
Other: 12.00%
(Response included: Only in a designated zone with ventilation and AC)

If in a smoking environment, you
Protest: 15.38%
Walk out: 61.54%
Zip up and put up: 23.08%

Are you comfortable speaking up against smoking in working places?
Yes: 40.63
No: 15.63
Sometimes: 37.50

Is your direct supervisor a smoker?
Yes: 37.78
No: 62.22

If yes, are you comfortable enough to object to him/her smoking in your presence?
Yes: 56.52
No: 43.48

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.

According to the American Lung Association employees who work in a smoke-filled environment are 39% more likely to get lung cancer.


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.

Remember that opening a window, running a fan or air purifier, or smoking near the chimney will not get rid of second-hand smoke. – Canadian Lung Association


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:

She is pregnant but was not afforded the courtesy and right of a smoke-free environment, until she demanded it.

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How bad is secondhand smoke? This bad
  • Second-hand smoke has over 4,000 chemicals; many of them cause cancer. Two thirds of the smoke from a cigarette is not inhaled by the smoker, but enters the air around the smoker.
  • Second-hand smoke has at least twice the amount of nicotine and tar as the smoke inhaled by the smoker.
  • It has five times the amount of carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that robs the blood of oxygen.
  • It also contains higher levels of ammonia (better known as window cleaner) and cadmium (also found in batteries).
  • The concentration of hydrogen cyanide (a poisonous gas that attacks respiratory enzymes) in tobacco smoke is considered toxic.
  • Non-smokers who breathe in second-hand smoke can get many serious diseases. It can cause lung cancer, heart disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (emphysema and chronic bronchitis) asthma and other diseases.
  • Regular exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of lung disease by 25% and heart disease by 10%.

(Courtesy Lung.Ca)[/boxify]

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Exposure to Secondhand Smoke:
  • 12.0% of adults (8.3% of Qatari, 13.8% of Non-Qatari) who worked indoors were exposed to tobacco smoke at the workplace.
  • 16.8% of adults (16.7% of Qatari, 16.9% of Non-Qatari) were exposed to tobacco smoke at home.
  • 25.9% of adults (29.2% of Qatari, 24.1% of Non-Qatari) were exposed to tobacco smoke when visiting restaurants.

Courtesy: Global Adult Tobacco Survey-Qatar[/boxify]  
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.



  1. Munaf Bangi

    I am a non-smoker, In my office people usually keep on smoking despite of informing them that I have breathing problem. When I as in 9th grade at high school, I had diphtheria in my left nostril and since that time have breathing problem due to dust and smoke. Could you please suggest me what should I do? I cannot leave my place during work as in my profession I am usually busy completing so many things.

    Please help me.

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