The Islamabad administration has been raiding restaurants serving Sheesha for the last several months, shutting down many of them and seizing their apparatus. Similar operations have been reported in other cities of Pakistan. While smoking is injurious to health, it is a matter of concern that Sheesha in particular is being made taboo and adult smokers are being harassed by the police.
“No person shall smoke or use tobacco in any other form in any place of public work and use,” says Section 5 of the Smoking Ordinance of 2002. But it adds: “The federal government may, however, issue guidelines for permitting designated smoking areas in premises or places where adequate arrangements are made to protect the health of non-smokers.”
Sheesha smokers are concerned that the government is deliberately ignoring the part of the law that allows smoking in designated places.
A similar law in India, called the Smoking Act of 2002, includes additional provisions. Section 4 of the act states that “in a hotel having thirty rooms or a restaurant having seating capacity of thirty persons or more and in airports, a separate provision for smoking area or space may be made”.
Adults are free to choose what they want to smoke, just as they are free to choose who to vote for
A smoking law in the UK – the Smoke Free (Exemptions and Vehicles) Regulations of 2007, provides a similar exemption. “In this regulation,” the law elaborates, ” ‘designated room’ means a bedroom or a room used only for smoking which: a) has been designated in writing by the person having charge of the premises in which the room is situated as being a room in which smoking is permitted; b) Has a ceiling and, except for doors and windows, is completely enclosed on all sides by solid, floor-to-ceiling walls; c) does not have a ventilation system that ventilates into any other part of the premises (except any other designated rooms); d) is clearly marked as a room in which smoking is permitted; and e) except where the room is in a prison, does not have any door that opens onto smoke-free premises which is not mechanically closed immediately after use.”
It is clear that a Sheesha bar qualifies as a designated smoking place.
A Sheesha bar qualifies as a designated smoking place
The crackdown in Pakistan has been limited to Sheesha bars only. Smokers of cigarettes are not being subjected to the same harrassment, and many police officers are themselves often seen smoking in public places.
According to Section 8 of the Smoking Ordinance of 2002, “No person shall sell cigarettes or any other smoking substance to a person who is below the age of 18 years.” Conversely, a person who is above the age of 18 years is free to choose whether he or she wants to smoke cigarette or Sheesha, just as he or she is free to choose who to vote for.
It is unfortunate that at a time when Pakistan is facing the biggest security challenges in its history, the country’s law-enforcement apparatus is being used for moral policing that violates the fundamental rights of people.
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