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Abu Dhabi clears the air on confusion over new shisha cafe laws

Those larger than 70 square metres or operating from the ground floor of buildings will have six months to meet requirements.

Source : / 3 Feb 2014

Many of the capital’s cafes will have to stop serving shisha on Saturday as tough laws on the sale of tobacco products come into force.

But some cafes and restaurants will have up to a year to conform to the strict rules, the Department of Economic Development said on Thursday.

Ahmed Al Qubaisi, acting commercial protection director at the department, said shisha businesses in the emirate had been divided into three categories, and all had been notified of whether they would have to close or be given a grace period.

“If they are located next to residential villas then the ban applies to them,” Mr Al Qubaisi said.

“We are not after economic gain nor do we even consider it in our decision. What we care about foremost is the safety and health of the public.”

Other venues that would have to stop serving immediately are those near mosques, schools and clinics; those smaller than 70 square metres; and those in buildings but not on the ground floor.

Those larger than 70 square metres or operating from the ground floor of buildings will have six months to meet requirements.

And for those cafes in buildings along the Corniche and in industrial areas, the law will not be imposed for a year.

The new rules will require that shisha cafes must close for business between midnight and 10am and offer at least two square metres of space for each smoker.

Cafes should be no smaller than 200 square metres and restaurants offering shisha must ensure there are separate areas for non-smokers.

They must post signs saying that customers under 18 are banned, and that offenders face fines of up to Dh1 million, two years in jail and closure.

One shop that will have to stop by selling shisha on Saturday expects business to suffer.

“I expect that we will make no more than Dh100 a day,” said Rawad Al Rashed, a partner in the business. “Our business greatly depends on shisha smokers.

“They come to the coffee shop and breathe out their tensions, relax and order drinks and sometimes food.

“If we don’t serve shisha we will lose most of our customers. They won’t just come for a glass of juice and if they do, how much will that make us?”

Mr Al Rashed, from Syria, said more than 100 people came to the shop every day to smoke shisha.

“They sometimes come two to three times a day,” he said. “Men smoke shisha to help them feel better and ease their tensions.

“This coffee shop is next to the main road, there are no kids around, so there shouldn’t be a ban on shisha.”

Khaled Mohammed, 27, said he smoked shisha to “relieve the tensions of work”.

“There is always a replacement,” the Emirati said. “We will just have to go to another place to smoke shisha.

“It is a good move and should apply to crowded, residential places but it won’t affect me. I’ll just find an alternative.”

One smoker, Emirati Saeed Nasser, 32, said the laws were a good move.

“Many kids see us smoke shisha and think that it’s part of being a man,” Mr Nasser said. “This decision might reduce the number of smokers since they will be too lazy to go somewhere far to smoke.

“The Government is doing a lot to reduce smoking with the new plans to increase tobacco prices and banning smoking while driving.

“What should be done now is to ban anyone under 18 from smoking shisha in hotels, where I don’t see it being regulated.”


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