Comment: Smoking bans in the UAE

Ex-smoker Holly Sands weighs up the debate

The Knowledge

As a new law causes debate, Holly Sands lets loose on the city’s insistent smokers.

If you’re a life-long non-smoker, however virtuous you think you may be, you will never match an ex-smoker for sheer righteous indigence in the presence of lit cigarettes. I should know; I am one – and don’t even talk to me about cigars.

Though I kicked nicotine to the curb some time ago, since Dubai announced plans to ban smoking in cars in the presence of under 12s, the reactions have turned my stomach as much as the stench. An alarming amount of responses to the move have been in the vein of a stroppy: ‘Good luck enforcing that!’, and by the city’s own admission it will need more planning to effectively pull it off. But why am I not hearing more people saying ‘Hey, great idea! Maybe forcing my kids to join me in an early, tar-stained grave is a smidge on the selfish side’?

I can’t imagine that this move is anything other than a step forward. I invite any smokers who feel that their rights are being infringed to consider the rights of their beloved sprogs, as they chuckle and wheeze from the car seats they’ve been strapped into to keep them safe (oh, the irony).

But though this announcement may be progressive in the war against smoking, much of Dubai is still hosting a very retro attitude towards having a puff or ten. While other international cities have banned the odious, odorous habit from their pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants, the majority here welcome the city’s vast population of smokers with open arms and crystal ashtrays. Perhaps they’re hoping to keep the 1940s illusion that smoking is glamorous well and truly alive – in which case I’d invite them to meet my grandmother, a life-long smoker who I have watched struggle through the past five years with emphysema. She can no longer cross her living room without stopping to catch her breath.

Smoking is truly absurd. It won’t do you any favours in holding onto potential spouses, or help you live robustly into old age.

Bat your eyelids, twirl your fingers through your hair and splutter foggy clouds of carbon monoxide-infused sweet nothings – that’s not how the story goes. It was the prospect of losing my significant other – a staunch anti-smoker – that forced me to come to my senses and give up. The Germaine Greers out there might raise their eyebrows at the fact I quit for a man, but you’re kidding yourself if you think smoking is a feminist issue. Because it’s not – it’s an addiction. Tackling it and giving up for someone you love makes far more sense than carrying on for no good reason. Worried you’ll miss having to loiter outside your office for a fag when it’s 40°C? Or that you’ll miss out on the joys of chemo? I didn’t think so.

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