New rules regulating shisha cafes in Abu Dhabi come into effect by the end of this month, with officials confirming that violators will be punished.The regulations, which will be implemented from February 1, ban cafes from operating within 150 metres of residential areas, schools and mosques.
Cafes can only remain open between 10.00am and 12.00am and must have a sign prohibiting customers younger than 18 years.
The distance between two smokers has also been specified at two square metres while cafes should measure at least 200 square metres. Restaurants offering shisha must also have separate smoking and non-smoking rooms.Those found violating the law will face imprisonment for two years and a fine of up to Dhs1 million, which will be doubled in case of repetition of the offence.
The rules, first announced in July last year, are mainly aimed at reducing the number of young smokers in the emirate.
According to a study in Abu Dhabi, about 28 per cent of teens aged 15 or younger smoke, while 30 per cent of people aged 18 are smokers. The latest World Health Organisation (WHO) study states that 20.5 per cent of the UAE’s adult population are smokers, while 14 per cent of the youth in the country use tobacco.
Also, contrary to the belief that shisha smoking is less harmful compared to cigarette smoking, a WHO advisory  states that a typical one-hour session of shisha smoking exposes the user to 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette.
Although the tobacco smoke passes through water in a shisha, it still contains high levels of toxic compounds, including carbon monoxide, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens), stated the report.