A recent study indicates that smoking tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the world while passive smoking is the cause of one in every 100 deaths worldwide.
In Saudi Arabia if you go to any mall you will find signs saying “No smoking”, but what I find very disturbing is that most people do not care about such regulations and smoke regardless of such warning signs. When you think about it, that is what you would expect them to do when the authorities in the malls do nothing about it.
The most mall authorities might do is send a security guard to order the person who is smoking to stop. The guard will then simply walk away without waiting to see if the smoker puts out his cigarette, and if the smoker is a woman the security guard will usually not go to ask her to stop smoking or will not be firm about ordering her to put out her cigarette.
I feel that the rights of the smoker are always taken into consideration. The non-smoker, on the other hand, is looked at as a crank or someone who is over conscientious about their health when they complain about people smoking in a non-smoking area.
When you take a close look at the cafés inside malls you will find that most of them allow smoking even though there are signs throughout the mall forbidding it. When you enter a café you are asked if you want a smoking or a non-smoking area and that smoking area is still inside the mall, which I find ridiculous as it does not support the main purpose of the signs warning against smoking which is to protect the health of the general public.
As for cafés in Jeddah, you will find that almost every one of them has a “shisha” menu as smoking shisha is a very popular part of the culture here. But what baffles me is seeing people who bring their children or even small infants with them to these cafés knowing how harmful it is to their health. Yet you can see parents selfishly bringing youngsters to such cafés exposing them to the passive inhalation of harmful shisha and tobacco smoke.
I have no problem with those adults who choose to smoke and most probably hurt their health. They are old enough to make decisions for themselves. However, I do object when they show no respect for others who choose not to smoke.
They see no-smoking signs posted everywhere and yet they willingly decide to ignore them and expose non-smokers to the risk of passive smoking.
My sister and I were once out in a public area and she asked someone to kindly put out their cigarette and was met with the response: “I will think about it”. Why put up signs with rules and regulations if you are not going to make sure that people adhere to them? Public awareness campaigns target the smokers in society. Why not raise public awareness about the effects of passive smoking? It is about time to remember that non-smokers have rights, too.
— Esraa Al-Ghamdi is a Saudi poet. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org