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Bahrain to clampdown on public smoking

Manama, February 13, 2008

Smokers who light up in their cars with children aboard could be prosecuted under a proposed law.

Traders who sell tobacco to children aged under 14 could also face up to six months in jail, under the law.

It is already illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone aged under 18.

Restaurants which fail to properly separate smoking and non-smoking areas would be fined BD2,000 to BD5,000 ($5,300 to $13,300) and closed for up to two months for repeat offences.

Smokers who light up in closed areas, such as cars with children on board, buses, malls and other places would face fines of BD20 to BD50. Parts of the law, but not the penalties, were discussed by MPs at parliament's weekly session yesterday.

MPs backed the clause making it illegal to smoke in cars with children on board, despite division over whether it would be an infringement of individual rights.

The government drafted the law in 1994, but it has not yet seen light.

The new draft is a combination of the original draft and a law proposed by the parliament.

Health Ministry Assistant Under-Secretary for Primary Care and Public Health Dr Mariam Al Jalahma said that MPs should take into consideration that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had given Bahrain five years to comply with international health standards.

'One year has already passed and there is no time to remove articles and add them in the future, as a way of introducing a gradual law, because we have just four years remaining to come with proper laws to protect people's health,' said Dr Al Jalahma, who is Bahrain Anti-Smoking Society vice-president.

'The draft has been ready since 1994, yet it has never seen light and it is time we ensured it does.

'The law is not tough, as it is flexible, but at the same time looks into people's health as a priority, considering that smoking is lethal.

'For example, in Europe, smoking is banned in restaurants, but in this law, restaurants here can have special areas where smokers can sit.'

Parliament second vice-chairman Dr Salah Abdulrahman, who is the society's president, said that smoking rates in Bahrain were disturbing.

'One out of five smoke at primary school, one out of four in secondary school, one out of three adults smoke and one out of 10 women,' he said.

'Do we want those rates to double or triple? This law is here to protect people's health and does not breach anyone's rights, as people's freedom stops when they harm others.'

Services committee chairman Dr Ali Ahmed said that some MPs' proposal to remove the article criminalising smoking in cars with children on broad was wrong.

MP Sayed Maki Al Wedaie, a smoker, voted against the law, saying smokers had a right to their freedom. But foreign affairs, defence and national security committee vice-chairman Abdulla Al Dossary, who is also a smoker, backed it, saying that it was for people's own good.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Smoking | Bahrain | law | Children | clamp down | Public |

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