Khaleej Times investigates how under-18 teenagers can still walk into stores and buy cigarettes without being asked for an age proof.
Despite the country’s strict laws on selling tobacco that have been in place for years, staff at groceries and hypermarkets do not hesitate in handing minors a cigarette pack without asking for proof of age.
When Khaleej Times took Talal Awadh, 17, for a round of three groceries and two hypermarkets in a residential area of Al Karama, none of the staff asked for his ID, despite the law clearly stating that teenagers should not be given tobacco products and that an identity proof is presented.
At one point, Awadh returned the pack, saying that the cigarettes weren’t the one he was looking for, only to be surprised with the staff member handed him an alternative type. “I gave them a chance to reconsider their decision, but they still handed it to me without asking my age,” laughed Awadh.
Article No. 5 of federal law No. (15) of 2009 on combating tobacco prohibits selling or initiating the selling of tobacco-related products to those under the age of 18. “The seller shall be entitled to ask the buyer for evidence to prove his age. Ignorance of age shall not be an acceptable excuse,” reads the law.
There appeared to be discrepancies in the fining structure and amount as well. While Dubai Municipality (DM) said that “whoever sells cigarettes to a teenager underage is subject to a fine of Dh2,000. The fine is doubled with each time the violation is repeated, under the rules and regulations followed in Dubai,” a statement from the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHP) said that those who flout rules can be fined between Dh500 to Dh10,000.
Is the law applied?
Marwan Al Mohammad, Director of Public Health and Safety Department at DM, said the department implements the law through awareness and inspections.
As the department is currently implementing rules and regulations on shisha cafes and practices related to shisha, Al Mohammed said the civic body still has not tackled cigarette selling in supermarkets. “The issue of selling tobacco depends on residents’ complaints, since monitoring over 3,000 supermarkets and the possibility of catching sales to minors is difficult,” said Al Mohammed.
This is why, he noted, the municipality will soon launch campaigns to raise awareness among residents about the dangers of smoking, since the local community must be the key supporter that helps officials catch violations. The department will also send secret inspectors to detect violations.
Supermarkets have to obtain licenses for selling tobacco, with rules also set out for the specific spaces and techniques of displaying the cigarettes.
“Monitoring shisha places and stabilising practices in this area is taking up a lot of time and effort. Once that part is done, we will start concentrating on cigarette sales,” said Al Mohammed.
Meanwhile, he urged residents to report violations to 800900.