When will those who smoke in public be punished and fined?


On the 12th of Ragab, 1429 Hijri (15th July, 2008) I wrote an article in Okaz newspaper, titled: “Who will be convinced?”, and in it I spoke about smoking in public places in general. I addressed the issue of smoking in King Abdul Aziz Airport in Jeddah in particular. In the article I expressed the frustration felt by all those who had used their pens along the span of two decades to try and improve the situation; and despite the clarity of the religious ruling and the royal decree banning smoking in public places, yet actual practice is far removed from all that.

I received a lengthy phone call from the Head of the General Authority for Civil Aviation, Eng. Abullah Bin Mohammed Nour Ruhaimy – God bless him – relaying the suffering that officials go through, as well, in implementing the no-smoking rule, despite their concern and their instigation of many measures throughout the past years. One of the main reasons for their suffering is the lack of the adoption and publication of a list of fines related to the ban on smoking inside airports. I realized, after this phone call, that this issue bothers him just as it bothers me, and I vowed to him that I would use my pen in order to achieve our purpose, namely making our airports and public places smoke-free.

I hereby publish for the benefit of our esteemed readers the letter I received from Eng. Abdullah Bin Mohammed Nour Ruhaimy, following our phone call, explaining the situation and challenges as follows:

“In reference to your letter and your article published in Okaz newspaper, in which you addressed the issue of smoking in King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah, I would like to relay the following: To start with, The General Authority for Civil Aviation would like to affirm its extreme concern regarding implementation of the honorable  and highly regarded decree which reaffirms the ban on smoking in ministry offices, government buildings, public   institutes and their branches, as well as affiliated units. To that purpose the General Authority has undertaken many steps, aimed at preventing smoking in its airports and all affiliated facilities, including the following steps:

  1. Placing guiding and warning signs regarding the ban on smoking.
  2. Daily broadcasts about the ban on smoking through the local broadcast system in airport terminals.
  3.  Stressing upon airport terminal supervisors the importance of alerting passengers to the importance of not smoking inside airport terminals.
  4. Although the General Authority for Civil Aviation is still awaiting the adoption and publication of a list of responsibilities and fines related to the ban on smoking, yet  in accordance with the regulations’ provision of assigning areas for smoking, it has embarked on appointing and preparing special rooms for smokers. Such rooms are now available in both the Southern and Northern terminals at King Abdul Aziz International Airport, as well as at King Khaled Airport terminals in Riyadh, whereas similar rooms are in the process of being prepared in King Fahd International Airport in the Eastern Province.
  5. Regarding the application of fines to prevent smoking in airports, the Authority has undertaken many efforts and procedures during the last few years in relation to this matter. These have included:
  • Preparing a list of fines and penalties conferred upon those defying the smoking ban, in collaboration with the relevant authorities.
  • The above-mentioned list of regulations was brought forth to the level of the ministry in 1421 Hijri to be adopted by the proper authorities, and was then sent to a panel of experts, then studied by the Council of Ministers and the Shoura Council.
  • In 1423 Hijri the Shoura Council recommended the list of regulations be incorporated within the National Project for Prevention of Smoking, which is promoted by the Ministry of Health and is under study by a panel of experts.
  • A channel of communication was opened for following up on any instructions given out by the venerable Council of Ministers in that respect. The latest such communication was the telegram sent from His Royal Highness the Crown Prince and Vice President of the Council of Ministers, Minister of Defense and Aviation and General Inspector (see attached copy); the telegram has not been answered as yet.
  • The authority is quite ready to implement the set of regulations in airports as soon as it is approved and adopted by the relevant authorities.

Perhaps you agree with me that committing to not smoking in public places in deference to the feelings of others and for the general good basically depends on a person’s religious and moral scruples, and his cultural level. These are responsibilities which are shared by many sectors, such as those of Education, Information and Health.

And while I thank you for putting forth this important topic, I hope you accept my invitation to come and meet with those concerned in our Authority, in order to discuss how to put forth this issue once again, in a manner that addresses individuals, be they citizens, residents or visitors, in addition to the relevant authorities concerned with elimination of this disease.

May God help us all to put an end to this negative phenomenon. May peace and God’s blessings be upon you”. The end

I agree with my brother Eng. Abdullah Ruhaimy that without these regulations and fines related to no smoking inside airports, our hands will remain tied, for God wins over with power whomsoever He cannot win over with the Quran.

Around three weeks ago Al Watan published the new anti-smoking system, with all its monetary fines and right to compensation for non-smokers, all of which we will review in our column next week.