Restaurants and cafes at Souq Waqif have been told that they are no longer allowed to serve shisha indoors, and that half of their outdoor tables must be reserved for non-smokers, several outlets have confirmed to Doha News.
The new rule, announced in a letter sent to outlets from the souq’s management, state that 50 percent of all restaurants’ open seats should be allocated to non-smokers, and that “hookah” has been banned inside all restaurants, cafes and closed areas at the Souq.
Restaurants that don’t follow the rules could lose their shisha license for at least 3 months, the letter states.
When reached by phone this morning, popular restaurants Tajine and Le Gourmet confirmed that they would follow the new regulation. Tajine stated, however, that the restaurant’s upstairs terrace has no such restriction.
According to the manager of Tajine, cigarette smokers are not affected by the rule, and that all customers and all outdoor tables are allowed to smoke. Smoking of any kind is not allowed inside the restaurant, he added.
This distinction was also confirmed by the manager of Zaatar W Zeit, who stated that cigarette smokers were allowed on all of the restaurant’s outside tables, but not permitted indoors.
The new rules were introduced within the last two weeks, Le Gourmet told us.
It it already illegal in Qatar to smoke in closed spaces, and the fine for doing so ranges from QR200 to QR500. But enforcement of the law has been lax, and residents have long complained about people flouting the rules.
The government has promised stricter new anti-smoking legislation that was discussed last year, but is not yet law.
The tougher rules are thought to include a ban on shisha outlets in residential areas and near educational facilities, and would empower malls to fine those found smoking on their premises. Currently, only government officials can ticket violators.
Shisha is widely believed to be less addictive and less damaging than tobacco smoke.
But according to the British Heart Foundation, one puff of shisha contains the same amount of smoke as you’d get from a whole cigarette – meaning that an hour of shisha smoking is equivalent to some 100 cigarettes.
Like cigarettes, shisha contains nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and heavy metals, such as arsenic and lead. Because very little nicotine is absorbed through the water, so it is still addictive, the BHF states.