Stiffer fine for smoking in public – People want total ban

SAMUEL KUTTY –
MUSCAT, MARCH 31 –

In yet another move to make the capital city more clean and healthy, the Muscat Municipality has come out with a host of measures including hefty fines on offenders.
Although littering of the public places attracts more penalty than other violations, smokers will also attract new fine apart from the one introduced in 2010.
Reacting to the new curbs, citizens and residents said the municipality should ban smoking at all public places including streets.
“The health benefits to the new decision will be so tremendous that the public support for going smoke-free will be massive,” said Bader al Abri, a teacher in Ruwi.
If the civic body wants to really stub out the killer menace, a total ban is required, he said.
A law was issued on Sunday by the civic body on penalties for violations of its orders.
Under the new law, throwing litter on the streets, wadis or near fenced walls can fetch penalties that include a fine up to RO 1,000. The law states that the penalties will be double if the offence is repeated.
The new curbs in the law stipulate that if an employee is found smoking at the workplace, he/she will be fined RO 50, followed by stricter penalties for repeated violations.
According to the existing law, which was introduced in 2010, smoking is already banned on all public transport and in all enclosed areas, including government premises, health centres and hospitals.
Anyone flouting the ban is liable to pay up to RO 100 and repeat violations attract RO 200 on the second offence, while third-time offenders face up to RO 300.
Also a ‘No Smoking Zone’ board in both Arabic and English should be displayed where smoking is not allowed. The licences of persistently offending establishments can be permanently cancelled, according to the law.
According to Dr Javed, a physician, along with penal actions, effective tobacco control policies should be chalked out in cooperation between government and non-government organisations.
“We need to increase awareness among adolescents in order to reduce rates of smoking initiation, increase quit attempts through improved access to cessation therapies, and protect non-smokers by re-examining smoke-free policies in recreation venues”, he said.
An official at the Health Affairs Directorate at the municipality said that regular inspections are carried out in places, which are legally bound to be smoke-free.
“Some private establishments were seen lagging behind in enforcing the rules. They have been fined. The municipality will not tolerate any action that affect the health of the citizens”, he said.