Smoking ban inside cars: curbing smoking or intruding on privacy?
One year. One person. 12,000 cigarettes. That’s the annual smoking rate in Qatar.
According to a research by Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, residents in Qatar purchase at least one billion cigarettes per year, totaling more than $65 million in sales. What was once considered a lifestyle choice, has now been referred to “serious epidemic” by health experts, and Qatar seems to be plagued by one.
Qatar has a No Smoking Policy that prohibits smoking in various types of closed public places such as buses, clubs and commercial centres.
Now, there’s a new law being proposed that prohibits smoking inside cars. The proposal is expected to meet Advisory (Shura) Council approval but nothing is still confirmed on that front.
Several countries, including Bahrain, UAE, Australia and the US have already made it illegal to smoke in private vehicles while there are children in the car (in some cases 12 and below, in some 19 and below).
It is not clear whether the ban in Qatar would be restricted to when there are children in the car, or at all times.
Breach of personal freedom?
The news about the law proposal evoked some anger on social media websites, having some describe it as a violation of personal freedoms. Smoking in public places is known to affect health of other non-smokers, but since a car is one’s personal space, residents feel they should be allowed to practice their smoking habits. “I am a smoker, and in Doha there is so much traffic where one spends a big portion of the day in the street. I can’t imagine I go for an errand that might take hours and I am not allowed to smoke inside my own car. I think my car is a private property, it is like my house, so smoking should be allowed in cars just as it is in homes,” says Mohamed Hassan, a Doha-based singer from Lebanon.
“I don’t see a good reason behind implementing such a law. It just puts more constrains on one’s personal freedom in Doha. If you stop them from smoking in their cars they’ll do it anywhere else, so it is not guaranteed to be that helpful,” says Ammar Abouelghar, a student at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar.
The positive side
While for heavy smokers, the law proposal is nothing less than torture; for those on the path of quitting, it might be a remedy.. “I am a smoker and I am totally fine with banning smoking inside cars. I know it will be tough at first but that’ll help smokers, such as myself to quit a lot easier,” says Elmahi Jamal, a Qatar University student from Texas who has been living in Doha for the past 2 years.
Dr Ahmed Mohamed Al Mulla, head of the Smoking Cessation Clinic at Hamad Medical Corporation explains that “the smoking rate in Qatar is 37%, and implementing any laws that create restrictions on smoking is important to help people quit their smoking habits as well as decrease the damage on the passive smokers’ lives”. Other health experts at the same clinic confirm that smoking inside the cars has great side effects on the accompanying passengers especially if it includes children.
What are your thoughts on this, do you endorse this proposed ban?