Muscat: A ban on smoking in public places such as beaches, parks, bus stations, etc., may become a reality with the Municipal Council members pushing for its enforcement.
Speaking to the Times of Oman, the Municipal Council said elected members belonging to Muscat Governorate are pushing hard to put in place a ban on smoking in public places.
"We need to take the necessary steps to reduce tobacco use. Studies have proved that laws banning smoking in public places have had a positive impact on health," said the member. An order issued locally which bans smoking in enclosed public places such as shopping malls, cafes and enclosed restaurants, is already in place. It was issued on October 31, 2009 and came into effect in April 2010.
The Municipal Council member informed that a report of the Ministry of Health showed that almost 70 per cent of the Sultanate's residents suffer from some kind of curable disease related to smoking. He added that if the government does not take such strong action, these curable diseases might change into terminal ones.
The Municipal Council members have suggested that the ban on smoking should also be extended to mosque yards, pedestrian lanes, sports stadiums and other public areas.
According to the World Health Organisation, tobacco kills nearly six million people each year.
"More than five million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while more than 600,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. Unless urgent action is taken, the annual death toll could rise to more than eight million by 2030," the member said, quoting WHO statistics.
Stricter regulations on public place smoking
"Smoking cigarettes costs the state millions of rials to treat smokers, thus adding a big burden for the Ministry of Health," said the member.
"We are also pushing for stricter regulations about smoking in public places since we have been receiving complaints from citizens who don't like being forced to become passive smokers," said the member.
Following the ban on smoking in closed public places, the Muscat Municipality has been fining offenders violating the ban a sum of OMR100 to OMR300.
Smoking is already banned on all public transport and all enclosed areas including government premises, health centres and hospitals, clinics and dispensaries, educational institutions, industries, commercial centres and markets, restaurants and coffee shops and clubs.
"The Municipal Council wants smoking to be banned in all public areas," said the member.
He added that the ban on smoking will be implemented step by step. The council has also suggested a ban on selling cigarettes in residential areas.
"The government must look into this issue, too," said the member.
He added that banning the sale of cigarettes in residential areas is likely to help because smokers will be discouraged when cigarettes will not be available easily. He added that selling cigarettes in residential areas encourages smokers and is likely to introduce the youth and children to smoking.
"The cigarettes must be made available only in big shopping markets and malls," said the member.
"We can understand that a ban on sale of cigarettes in residential areas will be hard on shops that have already stocked cigarettes, but the law can be activated at a later date once it is issued."
"The authorities concerned must spread awareness among residents and those visiting Muscat about the ban on smoking in public areas," said the member. He added that strict penalties must be imposed upon those found violating the law.
To get in touch with the reporter: firstname.lastname@example.org