Support your team in Qatar, but just don’t vape!

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Different countries will have different restrictions and regulations on Vaping, and it’s always worth reading up on the do’s and do nots of whichever country you’re travelling to. The main country under the spotlight currently is Qatar, who are hosting the World Cup 2022 right now.

Qatar has very strict laws and regulations on a lot of things which are seen as massively controversial, and have caused a lot of uproar from various different supporting communities affected by these laws. The one law that I am going to discuss and focus on is the fact that he act of vaping is completely illegal in the country of Qatar. I’m going to discuss the laws surrounding vaping, the prosecution what will follow should you choose to break these laws, and the reasons why vaping is banned in the country

When and why the vaping ban was introduced in Qatar

Vaping was banned within the country of Qatar in 2014, when an order from the Health Ministry was passed. This ban was a complete blanket ban on vaping making the possession, sale and distribution of anything vape related illegal. Some countries have restrictions similar to these in place, but the mere fact that possession of a vaping device is classed as illegal is quite different to other countries regulations. Strict instructions were given and enforced by border control agencies that will carry out rigorous inspections of any luggage or packages passing through their channels to ensure none are bought in to the country.

The reasons behind the ban are the standard run of the mill reasonings that a few other countries have declared as the reasons also. In a statement from Dr. Mahfoud, the country deems vaping devices to be unsafe as they are a relatively new product on to the market, and the risks that they may carry are unknown. Bear in mind, this was in 2014, when E-Cigarettes were fairly new on the market, so I understand the reasonings on the unknown side of things, but 8 years on the ban still remains and it seems there has been no effort to consider a review on these rulings.

And of course, the classic gateway theory was bought up within the same statement from Dr. Mahfoud, with him saying that e-cigarettes act as a nicotine delivery system, and young people are likely to form an addiction to nicotine using an e-cigarette, and this would then lead them into smoking cigarettes when the nicotine hit isn’t enough from their vaping device. He goes on to say that smoking increases the risks of serious health conditions like heart disease, respiratory diseases, and several different forms of cancer. Yet, smoking remains prevalent in the country with no restrictions on it, work that one out!

Dr Mahfoud acknowledges the studies that had been released showing that vaping can reduce the smoking rates but says labelling them as a safe alternative to smoking would be hazardous and recommends other forms of Nicotine Replacement Therapy would be a safer option that the country backs.

As I mentioned, this statement was released back in 2014 when the ban was first introduced, and even though they speak about more research coming out and the potential of a review happening, this actually hasn’t applied at all as there’s been zero interest in reviewing the regulations regardless of everything coming out about the safety of vaping from various sources across the world.

Smoking prevalence in Qatar

Looking at the statistics on the smoking prevalence amongst adults in Qatar, it’s not as high as some countries, but still a reasonably high figure. It was last reported in 2021, that 13.1% of all adults are smokers in the country of Qatar. This is approx. 315,000 current smokers, with 25.5% of the male population of Qatar being smokers, while only 0.6% of the female population are smokers.

Interestingly enough also, Snus is legal and used in the country of Qatar. If you didn’t know, Snus is the name of small pouches of flavoured tobacco and nicotine that can be placed in the mouth, between the lip and gum, and hold it there to give a nicotine hit. These are hugely popular in Sweden, the country in which they originate from. So it is a surprise that these are popular on the other side of the ocean. Snus is illegal to be sold within the UK and has been for a long time, nicotine pouches that are sold here in the UK are similar, but they do not contain any tobacco at all.

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Picture credit: Sky Sports

Restrictions made even tighter for the World Cup

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that Qatar is hosting the FIFA World Cup this year. However it has been overshadowed with controversy over their strict laws surrounding several different matters. I’m not going to get into the laws surrounding certain things as that’s not what this article is about, instead I’m focusing on the restrictions that have been heightened for the World cup surrounding smoking.

Obviously, vaping remains to be completely illegal in the country, wherever the person may be. But what is interesting is Qatar have also made a move to make the stadiums, as well as the fan zones a “smoke free” zone also, meaning smoking cigarettes is prohibited as well. The fan zone areas are public areas set up around the stadiums dotted across the country where fans can gather and watch the football games if they do not have a ticket to access the stadiums.

FIFA and the World Health Organisation passed on guidance and advice to Qatar and they have followed this advice and implemented the restrictions. The advice suggests that tobacco and sports do not mix, there should be no advertisement or promotion of tobacco, and prohibit the use of tobacco in public areas to avoid the risk of exposure to second hand smoke, as it’s been proven passive smoking is harmful to people’s health.

This means that smoking has temporarily fallen under the same category as vaping where it is not permitted in any areas involved with the world cup, and carries a fine if anyone is caught trying to flaunt the rules. Qatar have even hired an army of “tobacco inspectors” to keep a look out for anyone who is using a vape in these areas. Stewards and FIFA officials have even been given additional training to spot anyone using an electronic tobacco device.

Unfortunately, Qatar considers e-cigarettes to be tobacco products, even though they contain absolutely zero tobacco which is quite narrow minded if you ask me, but that’s their views.

What happens to somebody if they are caught vaping?

As you’ve probably guessed, Qatar do not take rule breaking lightly. Anyone caught even with a vaping device on their person in Qatar, not only at the World Cup, but at any time will face an on the spot fine of up to £2300, and the risk of a 3 month prison sentence could also follow with the fine as well.

If you are heading over to Qatar, whether it be for the World Cup or for a holiday, please ensure you are respectful of the country’s rules. Even if you don’t agree with them, they are put in place for a reason which the country believes in and therefore should be respected at all times.

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