Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wide range of hefty fines under anti-tobacco law

The Gulf Today, 14 Jan 2010

Inspectors have been authorised with the power to launch legal actions against violators of the National Anti Tobacco Law.
The offenders of the law will be awarded with hefty fines and jail terms in various levels considering the seriousness of the offences. The penal actions range from imprisonment of one to two years, and a fine of Dhs100,000 to Dhs1 million.
A senior official at the Ministry of Health (MoH) said that an on the spot fine of Dhs500 will be imposed on smokers in public places or public transport facilities or those who smoke while driving in the presence of children below 12 years.
Dr Hamdy Abdel Ellah, Legal Counsel at the MoH, said: "The offence will be transferred to the criminal court if the fine is not settled on the spot, enforcing the law-breaker to pay an amount of less than Dhs3,000 and not more than Dhs10,000."
"Meanwhile, businesses or individuals importing tobacco products without specified warnings messages and graphics will be subject to jail term of up to one year along with a fine of up to and a fine of Dhs100,000 to Dhs1 million. If repeated, the jail imprisonment will be extended to two years with a fine of Dhs1 million," he added.
He advised supermarkets, groceries and other stores that sell tobacco products, without the specified labels with statutory warnings messages and images, to dispose such cigarettes immediately as well as stopping further import of the tobacco products to avoid penalties.
"Selling sweets and toys resembling tobacco products are also in the list of prohibition. Sale of tobacco to less than 18-year-old category will entail imprisonment up to one year along with a fine of up to Dhs1,000,000. If the crime is repeated, both the punishments will double," Ellah pointed out.
"The imported and locally produced tobacco products will be confiscated if they are not complying with the standard specifications of the law. A fine of ranging from Dhs50,000 and to Dhs200,000 will be imposed on them. In the incidence of repetition, the punishment will be one year imprisonment along with Dhs200,000 fine," he said.
Ellah said that cultivating tobacco in the Emirates for commercial purpose has also been banned under the legislation. The agriculturists farming the tobacco crop could face up to one year imprisonment of not less than one year and not more than two years. A fine of not less than Dhs100,000 and not more than Dhs1 million will also be levied.
According to him, the commercial tobacco farming will be eradicated from the UAE's land in course of the enforcement of the new law.
"The companies or individuals, who promote the tobacco products or advertise them in any way, will be convicted. Their publicity tools and materials will be confiscated in addition to closure of the firms," he added.
Dr Mahmoud Fikry, CEO for Health Policies at the MoH, said: "As per the provisions of the law, enclosed public spaces such as restaurants, cafes, hotels and shopping malls operating in non-residential areas can set up designated smoking zones in their premises, after obtaining a special permit from the authorities."
"The specifications for the designated smoking zones will be outlined in the act's appendix which is being drafted currently. The conditions to be adhered by such non-residential area outlets include setting up proper ventilation facilities as per the size of their outlet," he added.
However, the smoking and non-smoking rooms provided to guests at hotels can be continued, as such rooms are considered private residences.
Meanwhile, airports are allowed to continue designated smoking zones on condition of following the anti tobacco law's specifications that will be released soon.
Fikri said that the anti-tobacco team at the MoH would pursue its activities to educate members of the public about health risks of smoking and the new law and its provisions.
"The National Anti Tobacco Law issued on Jan.6 by the UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan shall be effective from the day that follows its publication in the official gazette," he added.
According to him, the national anti-tobacco committee would draw members from all the authorities concerned like the ministries of health, economy, environment, education and interior, and local health authorities, departments of economy, customs and municipalities and customs.
"The health policies sector of the MoH will start drafting the executive regulations of the law in co-ordination with other stakeholders within the next few months. The regulations will be raised to the federal cabinet for consideration and issuance soon," he added.

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