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Thu 12 Jul 2007 10:07 AM

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Stubbing out smoking

As Dubai's decision to ban smoking gets underway, leisure managers are thinking fast about taking non-smoking steps.

The decision to ban smoking in Dubai's public spaces now has leisure facilities managers thinking fast about the issues involved in making buildings non-smoking compliant.

The first phase of the ban, which came into effect on May 31, saw smoking prohibited in government buildings and public places such as libraries.

The second phase will be launched on September 15 and will regulate smoking in shopping centres and amusement parks. By this date shopping centres, cafes and restaurants are all to have designated smoking areas that meet prerequisites concerning proper ventilation and smoke absorbers.

In addition, persons under the age of 21 will not be allowed into these areas.

Finally, the third phase will start on November 15 and will include a blanket ban on smoking in educational establishments, hair salons, health clubs, internet cafes, foodcourts and offices.

To enforce the ban, the director general of Dubai Municipality has stated that fines will be imposed on violators from 2008.

These impending regulations have forced the management of affected facilities to consider various strategies for creating smoking areas, and dealing with smoking-related litter.

"For an existing building, a holistic reassessment needs to be carried out on a case by case basis to tailor a solution [incorporating] the latest technologies in the field of indoor air quality management," said Abou Laban, business development manager for EMCOR Facilities Services in Abu Dhabi.

Laban added that the layout of the leisure facility would need to be reviewed to determine whether a smoking room could be provided.

As in other countries that have enacted similar smoking bans, it will be communication, cooperation and enforcement that will be the determining factors in ensuring a smooth change to smoke-free buildings, according to senior facilities consultant for EC Harris International, Sasha Doran.

"Foremost in the minds of [leisure facilities managers] is likely to be the provision of alternative smoking areas such as smoking rooms or external smoking shelters. Location, noise, smell and litter all need to be taken into consideration," she said.

"The Middle East climate will also have a bearing on any future decisions, as many smokers can hardly enjoy a puff outside in 40- to 50-degree temperatures for a number of months during the year."

However the Festival Waterfront Centre at Dubai Festival City, which has actively enforced a smoke-free environment since it opened in March this year, found that not only did implementing this policy result in positive feedback from customers, but the initiative required minimal financial investment, according to Irina Ionascu, PR & media relations executive of retail management at Dubai Festival City.

"All public areas are smoke-free but designated smoking areas are available in selected restaurants within the shopping centre, offering guests a choice between smoking or non-smoking zones," she explained.

"We have polite signage [throughout the mall] that thanks smokers for their cooperation, and our staff is trained to communicate the policy in a polite manner. After being politely informed about the nearest available smoking area, guests comply," she said.

"Families with children, people with illnesses and non-smokers can now enjoy shopping in fresh air and [the venture] also creates a safer workplace."

The decision to ban smoking is in line with the emirate's Strategic Plan 2007-2015 to protect public health and improve the quality of life for UAE nationals and expatriates living in Dubai.

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