Muscat: In a move to discourage sheesha smoking, some members of the Majlis Al Shura have put forward new suggestions at a meeting on Tuesday.
As per a key suggestion made by members, the sheesha restaurants functioning in residential areas and those in the heart of the towns should be shut down and asked to relocate to areas outside the town.
Also, the licence fee for operating sheesha restaurants should be increased as well.
"It is a move to discourage sheesha smoking. Now, the suggestions have been made. In the coming meetings, these will be discussed and tabled for approval," a Shura member, who participated in the meeting said.
Acting upon complaints received from the residents, the authorities in Muscat were planning stricter regulations to regulate sheesha restaurants.
Redrawing the area within which sheesha restaurants could be located in residential areas, a hike in licence fee and redesigning of restaurants, such as making provisions for an enclosed area for smoking, were considered by the authorities.
According to a report of the World Health Organisation (WHO), one sheesha smoking session may expose a smoker to more smoke over a longer period of time than he or she would have inhaled as a result of smoking a cigarette.
Cigarette smokers usually take 8-12 puffs and inhale 0.5 to 0.6 litres of smoke. In contrast, sheesha smoking lasts for 20 to 80 minutes and a smoker will take 50 to 200 puffs which range from about 0.15 litre to 1 litre of smoke, each.
Earlier, a Muscat Municipality official had told the Times of Oman that there is a possibility that permits would be given for such restaurants to function only in VIP areas to curb the rising numbers of sheesha restaurants in the city.
Sheesha permits are in great demand with nationals applying for these in ever increasing numbers, the official said.
Asked about the violations committed by sheesha restaurants, the official said that most of them abide by the rules set by the Muscat Municipality.
However, surprise checks are carried out on a weekly basis to ensure that these restaurants abide by the rules. In case of any violation of the regulations, hefty penalties to the tune of more than OMR1,000 are imposed.
A repeat violation can even result in the restaurant's closure, or it may be asked to rectify the situation and given a specific deadline to do the needful.
More than six sheesha restaurants were shut down after they were found violating the Muscat Municipality norms. According to the Ministry of Health, the rate of cancer among the youth, particularly those who smoke sheesha, is on the rise.
"The number of Omani young females smoking sheesha has also increased," the Ministry of Health said.
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