Maldives to implement smoking ban from New Year’s Day

Individuals caught smoking in ‘tobacco-free zones’ such as cafes and public places risk a MVR 500 (US$32) fine under new regulations to be implemented from tomorrow (January 1, 2013).

The ‘Regulation of Determining Tobacco Free-Zones’ (Dhivehi) prohibits smoking inside cafes, tea shops, restaurants, public places where people usually gather in numbers, parks and all government buildings.

Public Health Programme Coordinator at the Centre for Community Health and Disease Control (CCHDC) Dr Fathmath Nazla Rafeeq told Minivan News today that notices were expected to be put up around Male’ to inform the public of tobacco-free zones in the city.

Dr Rafeeq added that designated “social areas” including the artificial beach area in Male’, are also set to become no-smoking areas.

“Male’ City Council (MCC) has made a list of these [public] areas where smoking is forbidden and we are expecting the council to announce these areas. It is expected that island councils are to do the same outside of Male’.  If a member of the public sees someone smoking in a tobacco-free zone, there will be a contact number on the no-smoking notices that they can notify the police with,” Rafeeq said.

The CCHDC estimates that roughly 44 percent of the total population of the Maldives uses tobacco – mainly through smoking.  Despite the high number of smokers in the country, Dr Rafeeq claimed that the majority of comments received by the CCHDC from the public were in favour of the regulation.

“We understand there will be people who do not like the new rules and there has been some concern raised over its implementation, but most of the people we have spoken to, which includes many cafe owners, have told us they are very positive about the regulation,” she added.  “Now might be a good time for people to make ‘quitting smoking’ a new year’s resolution.”

According to the 2009 Maldives Demography and Health Survey (MDHS), 42 percent of people in the between the ages of 20-24 are smokers in the country.  The same figures indicate that 20 percent of Maldivians aged 15-19 years also smoke.

In order to provide smokers with advice on how to quite smoking, Dr Rafeeq added that the CCHDC will be printing and distributing booklets on the subject in the new year.

“Smoking regulations have successfully been implemented in countries all over the world. If it can work in countries like India, where there is a large and diverse population, it can definitely work here,” she added.

Effect on business

Under the new regulation, cafes and restaurants will be able to provide designated smoking areas within their premises upon application of a licence from the Ministry of Health.

Businesses wishing to apply for the licence will have to pay MVR 1000 (US$64) for the privilege. The type of smoking area permitted will depend on the establishment, according to the CCHDC.

“The regulation states that establishments defined as an ‘open space’ can have have a designated open air area for smoking, whereas businesses defined as a ‘closed space’ will need to designate a separate smoking room,” Dr Rafeeq said.  “According to the regulation, a closed area is defined as a space connected by at least two walls and a roof. Unfortunately this might mean that some “closed space” businesses may require some modifications to their premises that they will have to pay for.”

The regulation further states that if the owner of a premises does not put up a sign board to inform customers that smoking is disallowed, the Ministry of Health has the authority to fine the venue MVR 500 for a first warning.  Additional fines of MVR 5000 (US$3200) would then be charged by the ministry in case of any subsequent failures to display the required signs.

Should the owner of an establishment allow smoking in such places without authority they can be fined MVR 1000 (US$64), according to the regulation.

When asked of the potential negative impact the new regulation could have on independent businesses, Dr Rafeeq said that research had suggested that cafes and restaurants could experience an “initial decline” in business following the implementation of the new rules.

“There has been some concern raised from local cafe and restaurant owners, but we have carried out thorough research on the matter by looking at how similar smoking restrictions have affected businesses in other countries,” she said.  “Our research shows that while businesses may suffer slightly to begin with, eventually businesses will see the benefits regulation brings.”

Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industries (MNCCI) Vice President Ishmael Asif was not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.

Public opinion

Ahead of the implementation of the new regulation, smokers and non-smokers interviewed by Minivan News expressed mixed views on the restrictions.

“Smoking is dangerous not just to yourself, but to everyone around you. I’m glad the government is finally taking the lead to make a place this small safer health-wise,” a non-smoking 31-year-old civil servant explained.

Meanwhile, a 19-year-old male living in Male’, who did not wish to be named, said it was his individual freedom to smoke wherever he liked and that the new regulation will “force” smokers to break the law.

“[The regulation] is a very bad thing. It’s our freedom to smoke anywhere we like, and it’s others freedom to stay away from the smoke if they are getting disturbed,” he added.

“Regulations could be made allowing people to smoke in the public and non-smokers can move away from the smoke.”

While not objecting to allowing smoking at specific premises, a 38 year-old female accountant from Male’ told how she believed larger public areas should become ‘tobacco-free zones’.

“To be honest, I don’t mind people smoking on streets or cafes, but it’s difficult when people smoke in crowds such as at gatherings or music shows of sports events,” she said.


14 thoughts on “Maldives to implement smoking ban from New Year’s Day”

  1. Non-smokers have had their unalienable rights to a clean lung encroached upon and violated by smokers.

    Smoking is the most anti-social and barbaric activity by any measure. It has become a taboo now if some one poops or relives himself on the street in the middle of a people and foul the air - except of course in some villages in India.

    This is no difference to smoking in public and has to now become a taboo.

  2. One good thing that's happened in the Maldives for a while. Hope the people learn that it's alright to quit even.

  3. It would have been better driving motorized vehicle is banned in Male; a huge unnecessary burden on economy and a much unhealthy environment created by fumes. It is obviously unnecessary in this tiny capital to drive vehicles where you can walk across the Island in 10 minutes.

  4. @Maldives politics on Tue, 1st Jan 2013 2:59 PM

    Very true. Just the other day, there was this old pickup, literally spewing out smoke, for yards behind it, stuck in a very small road. Behind it, covered in the cloud of smoke there were many stuck,behind the vehicle, enjoying the carbon monoxide + diesel fresh into their lungs.

  5. I'll join the queue. A ban on smoking in public places, where many people gather and can become "victims" of smoking, is a good thing. Banning smoking in bars where nearly everyone smokes anyway, is a bit excessive.

    But the real deal is all the motorbikes, although using less fuel compared to cars they emit much more toxic fumes making male a unhealty place. This in a city where bicycles would be almost as fast, much safer, healtier and cheaper as motorbikes. Of course it is not as comfortable.

  6. i wish it was to create a healthier people but i say this is just to squeeze money out of people

    Try to create a healthier society before forcing individuals to be healthy!
    y the hell do u think there r so many smokers here in this shitty place we call home, its not only about addiction

  7. some thing good after a long time.. do implement the rules,, We hope the smoking ban rule is not like the street parking rules. Its high time that we enforce all the rules.

  8. Smoking is conspicuous part of drinking.

    When you see a blood shot late night drinkers (recently common among maldives politics culture), chain smoking in the morning and chatting non-stop politics, you know
    a) what he discussed last night
    b) what he was drinking last night
    c) which political party he supports
    d) the probability of him being a previous convict

    Such is the state of this country

  9. Its not a bad idea to ban smoking from public places. I feel the government should get their priorities right and in order. More important things are still pending that needs both public and governments' joint effort. Seriously government needs to get their priorities in order.

  10. Right decision to ban Smoking in Male. It is a small island with not much of greenery to balance the pollution so the imposed ban would be great to keep the environment clear and comfortable

  11. There must be some thing hidden behind this smoke-ban perhaps WHO funding!!! in a town where rotting garbage is transported on open trucks and on Bangali-bicycles. Even one lorry from the Custom's area puts out more CO2 and poisonous carbon monoxide than all the smokers of Male' combined. So it definitely is not a "health-issue" most probably tied to a UN/WHO grant or something similar!!!!!


Comments are closed.