Smoking rooms or closed areas inside office buildings and many public places are seen not only in Qatar but also in the other GCC countries. They are supposed to protect non-smokers from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke or passive smoking, while allowing smokers to have their nicotine fix.
But, very few people know that setting up designated smoking places inside buildings, is a breach of Article 8 of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), as pointed out to Gulf Times recently by two prominent anti-smoking activists in the region.
There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke, according to Dr Fatimah El-Awa regional adviser, Tobacco Free Initiative, WHO-EMRO, while citing the relevant article from the FCTC.
“Parties of the FCTC recognise that scientific evidence has unequivocally established that exposure to tobacco smoke causes death, disease and disability,” she explained.
“The opinion of the FCTC is that all indoor areas must be 100% smoke free. Allowing designated smoking areas inside buildings, is a breach of Article 8,” highlighted Dr Jawad al-Lawati, senior consultant, ministry of health, Oman.
Several studies have proved that tobacco smoke continues to linger all over the place, where smoking rooms are located, for very long hours and can harm others. According to Dr al-Lawati, a fan as powerful as a tornado is required to expel tobacco smoke from any indoor area.
According to Dr El-Awa, second-hand smoke is not only harmful to health; it kills. Nearly 600,000 people die each year from exposure to second-hand smoke.
The list of diseases and adverse health effects from exposure to second?hand smoke is long and growing, and includes cancer, heart disease, stroke and sudden infant death syndrome. There are at least 69 established cancer?causing chemicals in tobacco smoke, and hundreds of recognised human toxins.
Narrating a personal experience, Dr El-Awa pointed out that any area filled with cigarette smoke can discolour teeth and skin and creates breathing trouble for some people. “I found myself with blackened teeth when I went to brush after staying in a hotel room which was occupied previously by a tenant who was a chain smoker,” she remarked.
As another anti-smoking activist observed, smokers ought to be considered more dangerous than reckless or drunk motorists. They are endangering the health and lives of the non-smokers around them and get away unpunished while errant motorists are more likely to be caught by the authorities concerned.
Clamping down on smoking in public places and abolishing smoking places inside public buildings is the need of the hour. Qatar could take the lead in the region in this regard by setting the ball rolling.
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