New Manama sheesha move opposed
Manama, May 19, 2014
Councillors in Manama are up in arms about new rules that allow all of Bahrain's hotels to serve sheesha year-round, a report said.
They described the proposal, spearheaded by the Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry, as "too relaxed" and "vague", said the report in the Gulf Daily News, our sister newspaper.
They also said the new rules contradicted anti-tobacco agreements signed by Bahrain, who was among 172 nations that committed to a global pact launched by the World Health Organisation.
"The government should be imposing laws to stamp out smoking instead of allowing sheesha that can cause toxins and diseases to spread among our people," said councillor Fadhel Al Qaidoom.
By law sheesha is only allowed to be served at hotels in Bahrain during Ramadan.
However, Manama Municipal Council vice-chairman Mohammed Mansoor and councillor Mohammed Al Hawaj urged their colleagues to join the other four municipal councils in approving the new rules that officially allow hotels to serve sheesha in restaurants, bars and poolside areas all year.
Al Hawaj, a smoker himself, said putting off the guidelines could affect tourism because sheesha was part of the country's nightlife.
"I can't see the problem in serving sheesha when the same outlets sell alcohol and cigars," he said. "It is taking us too long to reply to almost 41 coffee shops that are waiting for their requests to be considered.
"However, I have to say that the law is still incomplete and needs to be well written and discussed for the councillors to vote on."
Majority of councillors rejected the proposal relating to the traditional tobacco pipe, despite it being given the thumbs-up two weeks ago by the council's technical committee.
However, they agreed to discuss the guidelines once again this week.
Under the new rules sheesha outlets would be allowed to open on streets classified as commercial, but only in multi-storey buildings that do not have entrances facing the street or a pavement terrace.
Authorisation could also be given for outlets on service roads where garages, welding shops and factories are located, but only with consent from the Supreme Council for Environment.
However, all outlets still need to be 100 m from the nearest government building, educational facility, residential area, place of worship, diplomatic mission or social club.
The size of any outlet should also be no less than 150 sq m and they cannot be opened in villas, residential compounds, sports clubs, public gardens, parks, commercial centres or shopping malls. - TradeArabia News Service