The city government has delayed its crackdown on smoking in public places while it considers proposals from owners of sheesha cafes for enclosed or outdoor smoking zones to be allowed.
City government officials announced on Thursday that it had decided to enforce the ban under the Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Ordinance of 2002, with particular emphasis on sheesha cafes. They had said that the crackdown would begin from Tuesday.
But after a meeting between District Coordination Officer Noorul Amin Mengal and owners of sheesha cafes, the government has decided to delay starting raids on cafes and sealing the ones serving sheesha or allowing smoking.
Officials said that the cafe owners had proposed various compromises. Some suggested that they be allowed to serve sheesha, provided they put up signs outlining the health hazards of smoking. Some urged the DCO to allow cafes to build enclosed cabins where customers could smoke sheesha, or to allow smoking outdoors. Others argued that commercial places couldn’t be considered public spaces, hence the ordinance didn’t apply to them; the government officials rejected this argument.
Tariq Zaman, the personal staff officer (PSO) to the DCO, said that the cafe owners’ proposals for smoking areas were being considered. He said that the new date for the start of inspections and raids had not been decided, “but the operation will be conducted,” he said.
He said that sheesha was harmful to health. He added that this was not an anti-sheesha campaign, but against all smoking in public spaces. “Smoking areas in restaurants will be finished too. No violator will be spared,” he said.
Officials said that the DCO office has issued a public notice to be published in newspapers warning cafe owners and restaurants to enforce the smoking ban, but individual notices would not be served on establishments. They said that there were at least 152 sheesha cafes in Lahore.
Sikandar, the owner of Hot Fusion Café and a member of the Restaurant Café Association of Punjab, said that cafes should be allowed to serve sheesha in the open air. “This is permitted in other countries where smoking is banned in public,” he said, adding that he was also in favour of the proposal to allow smoking in separate areas. He said there was no clear evidence that sheesha was injurious to health. He said that sheesha cafes where customers smoked hashish with sheesha had given them a bad reputation. “We have asked the police ourselves to clamp down on such cafes, but they don’t do anything except taking bribes,” he said.
Mehboobur Rehman, the general manager of Jammin Java Café, said that by closing sheesha cafes, the government would be putting 4,000 people out of work.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2012.
More in PakistanProvincial Officers: No meeting yet of promotion committee