Bahrain steps up tobacco clamp
Manama, April 23, 2011
A total of 120 convenience stores from across Bahrain have been referred to the Public Prosecution since the beginning of the year for illegally selling individual cigarette or banned tobacco products, said a senior official.
The move by the health authorities aims to combat smoking among minors, who have easy access to cigarettes and chewable tobacco products sold in neighbourhood cold stores.
National Anti-Smoking Campaign co-ordinator Dr Ejlal Al Alawi said a team of health inspectors carried out surprise inspections at convenience stores as part of a nationwide crackdown.
'We referred from January until this month 120 cold stores in different areas to the Public Prosecution for violations of the anti-smoking law,' she said. 'They were found selling loose cigarettes to minors and banned products such as chewable tobacco products.'
Dr Al Alawi said the cold stores were given fines starting from BD1,000 ($2,652) and higher, depending on the gravity of the violations.
'If a cold store is found repeatedly violating the law, it could lead to closure of the establishment for one month,' she said.
Such products were popular among Asians, but banned in Bahrain, where some individuals were smuggling and selling them at a cheap price to customers.
'These products are banned in the country but some people smuggle them in powders which are mixed with spices,' said Dr Al Alawi. 'We are co-ordinating with the Industry and Commerce Ministry to work on mechanisms to stop the smuggling of chewable tobacco products.'
The Health Ministry has also issued circulars to all convenience stores, who should be prominently displaying signs that cigarettes and tobacco products will not be sold to those below 18 years.
Officials said that all stores should have licence to sell tobacco products to people over 18 years.
In 2009, an anti-smoking law was ratified by His Majesty King Hamad. It banned smoking in public indoor places, including restaurants, cafes, hotels, hair salons as well as on public transport and in private cars, where there are children.
It further forbids planting, manufacturing or reprocessing tobacco in Bahrain as well as importing chewable tobacco-based products and other tobacco substances unlicensed by the Health Ministry. – TradeArabia News Service
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