Arabian Business Weekly Update 1 November 2004

Dubai's smoking ban has turned into a sick joke.

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By  Anil Bhoyrul Published  November 1, 2004

Up in smoke|~||~||~|The Dubai Municipality is usually regarded as a world-class organisation. You only have to look around the city, its parks, its malls and its ever-increasing facilities to agree. But its actions over the bungled smoking ban in shopping malls have made it a laughing stock around the region. Here is a quick summary of the facts: On 15 June, the Municipality informed shopping mall managers of its decision to launch a smoking ban beginning 15 October. In September, a three-week publicity campaign was launched, and the local population was left with the impression that by breaking the ban they were breaking the law. Then, on 30 October, the ban was lifted because, according to Municipality officials, it never was a “legal” ban. The latest -- confusing -- information is that any ban is entirely up to the discretion of mall managers. Had the Municipality done the slightest amount of research, it may have operated differently. Here is a quick summary of the other facts: Retail spending in the first five months of this year in Dubai rose by 40%. It is expected to cross the US$7.6 billion mark by 2009, accounting for 50% of the GDP. With the likes of Mall of Arabia, Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates being planned, shopping malls in the city will soon account for 17% of all retail space in the GCC. And given the climatic conditions, there is 30% greater usage of shopping malls in Dubai than anywhere else in the world. So it should come as no surprise that many retailers, in particular the coffee shops and restaurants in malls, privately reported a drop of nearly 60% in trading following the smoking ban. Another week of the ill-conceived project, and Dubai’s retail economy would have started to feel the pinch. To satisfy the good intentions of the anti-smoking lobby, the Municipality should consider enforcing designated smoking areas in malls. In the meantime, it should admit making a mess of the plans announced in June, and let Dubai’s retail economy carry on booming. ||**||

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