The Malé City Council decided Wednesday night to ban smoking on the streets of the Maldives capital.
It will take effect in six months after the council enacts new regulations, Councillor Hussain Shareef told the press. The ban was proposed by Shareef and approved unanimously by seven councillors present at the meeting.
The 2010 Tobacco Control Act prohibited smoking at government offices, parks, sports stadiums, public transport, childcare or educational facilities, and designated non-smoking areas in restaurants. The law broadly defined public spaces but streets were not specifically included.
Along with graphic health warnings, a ban on the sale of single cigarettes is meanwhile due come into force in June.
New regulations on packaging and labelling of tobacco products approved in January prohibited any packaging that promotes or encourages smoking.
Importers were required to carry the approved graphic health warning with the brand name in generic font. “Smoking causes a painful death” and “Stop now” must be included as messages.
The overdue rules on stopping the sale of single sticks and introducing graphic warning images were drawn up two years ago.
The new administration has also increased funding for programmes to raise awareness about harmful products such as cigarettes and energy drinks
On average, 460 million cigarettes are imported to the Maldives every year. The MVR1.6 billion (US$103 million) spent annually on cigarettes accounts for about 23 packs of cigarettes per smoker every month.
An estimated 35 percent of men and three percent of women are smokers in Maldives with 17 percent of non-communicable disease deaths caused by cancers and nine percent caused by chronic respiratory diseases, according to the Health Protection Agency.
In early 2017, as parliament considered import duty hikes for cigarettes, HPA officials told lawmakers that that raising tariffs alone is ineffective without a multi-pronged approach to help smokers quit and discourage others from picking up the addictive habit.