Smoke gets in your eyes

With countries across the globe enforcing smoking bans in restaurants and bars, how long will it be before restaurants in the Middle East follow suit?

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By  Laura Barnes Published  April 1, 2006

|~|smokingforweb2.jpg|~||~|On a recent trip to the UAE, two friends from the UK fiercely talked about the pending ban on smoking in public places. The ban on smoking in bars and restaurants is expected to take effect in England next year. Scotland has just enforced the ban, and news regularly comes from the US about the latest restaurant chain that has adopted a no smoking policy. But what about here in the Middle East? Would such a ban, realistically, ever be enforced? It is a loaded question, and one that has to take into account a number of factors. Smoking in this region is cheap; a packet of cigarettes in Dubai costs around US $1.5, whereas in the UK the average price for a pack of 20 is $9, so more people are taking up the habit here. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Before an outright ban can be enforced, the feasibility has to be assessed. There are a lot of smokers in the Middle East, so if a no smoking ban is put in place an outlet has to accommodate its smokers either through an outside area or a smoking bar. However, during Ramadan and the searing heat of the summer, sending smokers outdoors is not possible. And here in lies the next dilemma, having a no smoking restaurant but a smoking bar in the same outlet may in principal sound and look like a good idea. But surely diners are going to be subjected to re-circulated smoke through the air conditioning units? Installing new systems and filters can be expensive and not something hotels and restaurants are willing to consider. However, a number of companies are trying to tackle this. For example, Johnson Diversey is able to eliminate bad odours through a gel plate inserted in the air conditioning unit. Although it does not act as a filter, it does strip the air of cigarette smoke, leaving diners to enjoy a smoke free meal. As a non-smoker I regularly go out with diners that are partial to the odd cigarette. I don’t have a problem with this. In fact, I am more than happy to let them smoke at the table while I am eating, but on a recent trip to a newly opened restaurant, the no smoking policy made a refreshing change. I went home without smelling like an ashtray and I felt the better for it. But not everybody is as accommodating. Therefore it seems simple, if you adopt a no smoking policy you will still retain diners, as long as you make provisions for the smokers. But a word to the wise, restaurants will be a much nicer place if you only banned cigars and pipes!||**||

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