Hefty fines on people smoking in a car with a child present
This is one of the penalties included in a new anti-tobacco law that came into effect today in the United Arab Emirates. From now on, shops located near schools will not be allowed to sell tobacco. Newspapers, radio and television stations will not be able to advertise cigarettes. Smoking in closed public places like restaurants and shopping malls will be more difficult.

Abu Dhabi (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Smoking in cars if there is a child who is 12 years or younger carries a 500 dirhams fine (US$ 135), this according to a regulation included in a new anti-tobacco law that came into effect today in the United Arab Emirates.

As of today, shops located near schools will not be able to sell tobacco, and newspapers, radio and television stations will not be able to advertise cigarettes. Smoking in public places such as restaurants and shopping malls will also be more difficult.

"This law intends to make it difficult for smokers to light up," Dr Widad Al Maidour, head of tobacco control at the Ministry of Health, told Gulf News.

However, for the doctor the law has to be widened to stop people smoking near shopping malls. In fact, "Municipalities need to ensure that smokers light up at least 25 metres from the entrance to protect non-smokers," Dr Al Maidour added.

"In essence, people who find others smoking in public places should be able to complain to authorities about this harmful practice. The implementation of these standards, however, depends on regulatory authorities. For example, the traffic police should apprehend people found smoking in cars if they are with a child who is 12 years or younger," she explained.

This is especially important because passive smoking causes serious harm to young people.

In order to ensure that residents' complaints are heard, Dr Al Maidour hopes to establish a toll-free number where people can call in and report establishments that flout the rules.

"Most importantly, the new regulation is a message to people that smoking is not acceptable," said Dr Shamil Wanigaratne, consultant clinical psychologist at the National Rehabilitation Centre in Abu Dhabi.

To make the health risks of smoking more evident, a proposal has also been forwarded to the Ministry of Health Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council to make the warning images on cigarette packs more graphic.

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