More than 1,300 people have signed an online petition to ban smoking in all cafes and restaurants across the Maldives.
Ahmed Affaal, the managing director of ADK Hospital, set up the petition two days ago and aims to get 1,500 signatures.
He told the Maldives Independent Wednesday the petition will be submitted to the Health Ministry because “they are legally obliged to regulate matters related to smoking.”
“The laws and regulations require cafes and restaurants to have a designated smoking area but there is no complete ban on smoking. My biggest target is to protect non-smokers from second hand smoke.”
According to the petition, non-smoking employees in such restaurants smoke the equivalent of up to 36 cigarettes during the course of an eight-hour shift.
It calls on workplaces to protect workers and families from “toxic secondhand smoke exposure.”
Affaal, who is also a member of the Tobacco Control Board, conducted a Twitter poll in April to get public opinion on banning smoking in cafes and restaurants.
Almost 3,500 people voted – with 59 percent supporting a ban and 41 percent opposing it.
“We need public opinion on these thing,” he said. “I have been doing awareness work in my personal capacity to reduce the impact on second hand smoke”.
The Tobacco Control law stipulates that cafes and restaurants must have a smoking area and imposes heavy fines on places that violate this law.
He said it is difficult to enforce the current rules but that a “total ban” will make it easier to spot cafes and people in breach of the law.
More than 450 million cigarettes are imported into the Maldives every year and an estimated MVR1.1 billion (US$71 million) is spent on smoking.
The Health Ministry last year said 81 percent of deaths in the Maldives are, directly or indirectly, related to smoking.