The government has published new regulations to control tobacco, banning smoking inside all government buildings, private restaurants, cafes, teashops and social spaces.
The regulation prohibits smoking at Rehabilitation Centres, children’s parks and places frequently visited by children, aboard ferries and ferry terminals and at any place where people have to wait in a queue to obtain services.
According to the new regulation places such as cafes and restaurants that want to have smoking allowed will have to apply for permission from the Ministry of Health. The permission will be granted to places determined by the Ministry.
Any person who smokes in an area determined to be non-smoking can be fined to MVR 500 (US$32) and the owner of a place that allows smoking in such places without authority can be fined MVR 1000 (US$64) according to the regulation.
The regulation states that if the owner of the premises has not put up the sign board to inform that smoking inside the place is disallowed, the ministry has the authority to fine the venue MVR 500 first time and MVR 5000 (US$3200) on further occasions.
The Centre for Community Health and Disease Control (CCHDC) estimates that the 44 percent of the total population use tobacco, mainly by smoking.
According to the Maldives Demography and Health Survey (MDHS) 2009, 42 percent of people in the age group 20-24 are smokers while 20 percent of 15-19 years age group smoke.
Customs data shows that in 2010 alone 346 million cigarettes were imported into the Maldives at a cost of MVR 124 million (US$8 million) – a disproportionate figure considering the 350,000 populace. In 2009, MVR 110 million was spent to import 348 million cigarettes – mostly included well-known brands such as Marlborough, Camel, and Mild Seven.
The first President of the Maldives Ameen Didi, who assumed office in 1953, banned tobacco in the Maldives. However, people were outraged over this decision and a group of rebellious citizens overthrew his government and lynched Didi in the street.