By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS
â€œThe believing we do something when we do nothing is the first illusion of tobacco.â€
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Just about anywhere you go in Kuwait, youâ€™re met with plumes of thick and murky cigarette smoke. Grocery stores, malls, hair salons and even hospitals are a smokerâ€™s paradise where lighting up is as easy as whipping out your lighter. Despite smokers being the minority in Kuwait, they make up for their small number by the amount of smoke they exude, giving a renewed meaning to the phrase â€˜chain smokerâ€™.
Itâ€™s not uncommon for children to come home from a day of shopping with their mother only to reek of cigarette smoke the moment they get home or a sick person having little choice to sit in a hospital waiting room that billows with cigarette smoke. The problem of public smoking is so bad in Kuwait that many people are forced to cover their mouths while moving about the course of their day. Itâ€™s unfortunate because the smokerâ€™s unhealthy habit is willingly thrust on the reluctant non-smoking populous whose only crime is leaving their home.
Whatâ€™s most shocking is that the Kuwaiti government passed a â€˜no smokingâ€™ law back in 1995, which covers all public places. Today, many government buildings have a special room that smokers can go into and enjoy their cigarette away from the public. However, most public venues do not have a specially designated room. As a result, most smokers take free smoking reign in Kuwait, ignoring the countless â€˜no smokingâ€™ signs and even public service posters educating the public about the dangers of smoking.
In a recent survey, the website GulfTalent.com discovered that Kuwait is one of the most cigarette-friendly countries in the world, with office workers even being allowed to smoke comfortably right at their desks. The survey also revealed that only 42% of companies in Kuwait have banned smoking, however despite even a corporate ban, smokers still light up in the workplace. With all of the smoking going on, during both work and leisure activities, itâ€™s not surprising that cancer is one of the leading causes of death in Kuwait.
Kuwait is not the only Middle Eastern country that has an often ignored smoking ban. Several Middle Eastern countries have similar bans in place. One of the most prominent is Bahrain. Within only a year of the ban being put in place, an estimated 14,000 smokers were caught illegally smoking in public. Unlike Kuwait, Bahrain often dispatches teams of health inspectors to enforce the no smoking ban. The ministry determined that the primary smoking culprits in the country are male adults, with teenagers under the age of 18 commanding over 2,000 of the citations issued. In Kuwait, smokers are left to their own devices and there is no one that can stop them once that cigarette is lit.
The Middle East often conjures up romantic images of men in robes lounging on pillows while smoking the â€˜hookahâ€™, or water-steam smoking pipe, as the sweetly scented smell of tobacco floods the air. However, cigarettes are much more user-friendly than the hookah and a whole lot cheaper. And regardless of the mode of operation, smell or the price, any use of tobacco is dangerous not only for the smoker but also those around him.