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Up In Smoke

Muna Al-Fuzai

Muna Al-Fuzai

Believe it or not, the smoking ban law in Kuwait is now 20 years old. I did not know about the existence of the law or its enforcement, because it is clear no one cares for it or respects it at all. Obviously, smoking is rampant at all places and times regardless of official statements that everyone ignores.

Even at the airport where you can find small smoking booths with open doors, most of the smokers stand outside or near that area. In the past, smoking was limited to men, but now women have also joined them. Smoking is becoming perfectly normal in the society.

According to statistics, the rate of smoking among adolescent girls from the ages of 13 to 15 years amounted to 11.3 percent, amid an increase in total smokers.

States have enacted smoking bans in public places, but this has not prevented many people from lighting up. Smoking has become a means to let out steam. Smoking may begin as a fun thing or to pass time or because everyone else is smoking, and not what has been alleged, that smoking parents are the reason.

Most movies show smoking as the first thing to do to get comfort in times of crises, and people believe what they see. I know about religious edicts that reject smoking and consider it a waste of money and health, but this also has no impact because no one listens, beside a lot of doctors are smokers themselves! Law No 15 of 1995 bans smoking in public places and stipulates a fine for violators.

The ministry of health announced last year that it had finalized a draft amendment to the 1995 law banning smoking in public places such as hospitals, markets and commercial complexes and will send it to the National Assembly to take necessary measures.

The MoH also runs a national anti-smoking program. Health Minister Dr Ali Al- Obeidi, in comments carried by KUNA, stated that the fine for smoking in public places has been toughened from KD 50 to KD 500. Kuwait was one of the first countries that implemented a ban on smoking in public places, but unfortunately did not enforce the law, so people are openly violating it like all other laws because of the absence of a deterrent factor.

These laws are mere ink on paper. A visit to the markets, airport, government institutions and even government hospitals shows people smoking everywhere, without any concern for those who don’t or the environment or any other factor. The problem of smoking is not about how many people smoke or where, but in our society we have duplicated our behavior and our thinking and everyone, without exception, does not respect the law.

Rich or poor, citizen or expatriate, with or without a degree - all of them display similar behavior of not respecting the law. Go to the mosques, associations, ministries, schools, weddings, airport, hospitals, etc and watch the failure of our behaviors.

Respect for the law in communities reflects culture, and I say with great regret that we have no culture to call for respecting laws. So, until this happens, everyone will keep smoking - with or without a law.

By Muna Al-Fuzai

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This article was published on 11/06/2015