The city government declared war on smoking in public places on Thursday, saying it would shut down sheesha cafes, restaurants and hotels that allowed smoking on their premises.
City government officials said that they would serve notices to sheesha cafes, restaurants and hotels within the next few days instructing them to completely abolish tobacco use.
“There will be no tolerance of sheesha cafes and establishments that do not stop smoking by Tuesday,” said Tariq Zaman, the personal staff officer to the district coordination officer (DCO).
He said that sheesha was a form of tobacco and its use was governed by the Prohibition of Tobacco Smoking and Protection of Non Smokers Ordinance of 2002, under which smoking in public places was not allowed.
He said that hotels and restaurants would be required to put up no smoking signs. Smoking would be banned in all public places, he said, such as the Badami Bagh Sabzi Mandi and the General Bus Stand. Shopkeepers caught selling cigarettes to children would be prosecuted, he said.
Zaman said that initially, hotels and restaurants would not be allowed to set up smoking areas. “Once we are satisfied that this practice has been finished, the owners can apply to the DCO. If they pass inspection, they will be allowed to open smoking zones,” he said.
Asked about the stay order from the Lahore High Court restraining the police from closing down sheesha cafes, Zaman said that they were trying to stop smoking in public places, not cafes. He was confident that the city government’s endeavours would not violate the terms of the stay order.
DCO Noorul Amin Mengal said that sheesha cafes would be closed if they did not stop serving tobacco products. He said that they would launch a campaign raising awareness of the harmful effects of sheesha on health and the environment.
After the notices are served, teams from the Environmental Protection Department would conduct raids and seals cafes still serving sheesha. He said that many young people took drugs at sheesha cafes. “They are becoming a social issue,” he said.
The DCO, who was chairing a meeting to review the local government’s smoking control strategy, said that the use of tobacco would also be prohibited in government offices and public transport. He instructed officials to put up no smoking signs at offices of the city district government. He said that action would also be taken against naswar and gutka dealers.
The meeting was told that 274 people died and 5,000 were hospitalised due to tobacco use every day in Pakistan; and some 1,200 children aged between six and 15 took up smoking every day.
Officials said that the city government had a list of some 60 sheesha cafes located in Lahore. They said that they would advertise in newspapers and serve notices on all cafés, hotels and restaurants. They said that the Punjab Local Government Ordinance allowed them to check, seal and fine establishments.
Mehboobur Rehman, the general manager of Jammin Java, said that sheesha cafe owners were meeting late on Thursday to discuss their response to the city government. He said that they had not yet received notices instructing them to end smoking on the premises.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2012.
More in PakistanAnti-dengue campaign: Larvae detected at just one site