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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Smoking in Qatar

News comes in daily about the smoking ban implemented in ever more places. From the urban jungles of India to campuses in America, it seems that there is no place or country where smokers can escape the ban. Many smokers are even turning to e-cigarettes to avoid the ban!

One exception for hardened smokers and drinkers are the bars and clubs of Qatar. Many bars, from Garvy's to the Orion at the Ramada, are filled with smoke and smokers, a sight relegated to history in many other countries. Non-smokers and ex-smokers like myself must once again resign ourselves to breathing in the second hand smoke and waking up stinking of stale tobacco if we are to enjoy a drink out.

It's not that Qatar does not care about smoking. The country is very aware of the health problems smoking causes, has been forward in addressing the issue and smoking is banned in a number of public places - although smokers can still enjoy their shisha in restaurants and cafes!

As for bars, I have often wondered if Qatar cared about what happened in them. After all, drinking is considered a sin by many Muslims, and at one point in the Qu'ran Mohammed called alcohol an abomination of Satan. If, therefore, we are already engaged in something so wrong, why would it matter if we are also damaging our lungs?

However, maybe I am wrong, as a Qatari health official has now called for a blanket ban on smoking in public places (see the full story in the Gulf Times.) If it is put in place, I suspect it there may be a lot less resistance from expat smokers in bars than from the shisha smokers that frequent Qatar's cafes and restaurants.