Bahrain may relax sheesha rules
Manama, January 1, 2011
Strict rules imposed by Bahrain’s Health Ministry on sheesha cafes could soon be scaled back, said a senior government official.
The rules implemented by Bahrain's five municipalities have proved hard to adhere to, said Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Minister Dr Juma Al Ka'abi.
A new anti-smoking law passed last year forces all restaurants and hotels to provide a dedicated smoking area, while banning sheesha cafes in family areas such as public parks and on the coast.
Sheesha cafes within 200 metres of homes, hospitals, embassies, educational institutions, government establishments and places of worship were also banned.
Authorities started enforcing the law earlier this year and municipal councillors sought changes to the rules immediately after its implementation - claiming they were too strict.
However, it was claimed the Health Ministry was unwilling to listen.
Councillors were not unhappy with the law, which was passed as a copy and paste replacement of a municipal ministerial decree dating back to 2006.
But they earlier demanded during a joint meeting that some of the provisions be amended, such as the distance that coffee shops must be from designated no-smoking places.
"When asking me about the law especially with regard to sheesha cafes, I think that the ban is right within residential areas, for various reasons that include noise and non-smokers' exposure to smoking," said Dr Al Ka'abi.
"But a distance of 200 metres and a ban on the coast seems to be impossible and illogical in a small country like Bahrain.
"Imagine if we went on closing coffee shops and under the law most are violators, we will end up with a bigger problem and that's people smoking inside their homes or on their doorsteps or rooftops and that's us back to square one or even a worse situation."
Dr Al Ka'abi said municipal councils had called for the law to be amended or risk harming more children, as sheesha cafes banned anyone aged under 18.
The Health Ministry earlier asked the five municipalities to take action against 108 shops for allegedly breaching regulations.
It also called for the immediate closure of six, saying they were authorised only to operate as restaurants.
Violations included unlicensed building additions, improper ventilation or safety standards and not following hygiene and health requirements to serve sheesha. – TradeArabia News Service