ABU DHABI // A year on from a smoking ban being implemented in cafes and restaurants in the capital’s shopping malls, a study has found that they are belatedly abiding by the rules.

The National visited all 41 coffee shops and cafes in three of the most popular malls in the capital – Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi Mall and Al Wahda Mall – to see which, if any, would allow smoking in their establishment.

We found that all but one had implemented a strict anti-tobacco stance since the rules were introduced last July, though many reported that as the smoke has cleared, so too has takings.

“The ban has been very effective,” said Khalifa Alrumaithi, director of the public health division at Abu Dhabi Municipality. Most cafes have stopped allowing smoking and now a resource for someone that needs help quitting smoking.

Many mall cafes and restaurants were initially reluctant to embrace the ban, even though the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, with support from the municipality, impose on-the-spot fines for those failing to adhere to the rules.

At Al Wahda Mall, all 14 cafes said smoking was forbidden.

At Costa coffee shop, supervisor Joy Bersaimin, 30, said she believed the mall management’s strict anti-tobacco stance meant every food and beverage establishment inside the mall had a non-smoking policy – but said she has noticed fewer customers as a result.

“It has definitely decreased,” she said. “By about 10 to 20 per cent at least. People still come here and ask where they can smoke. When they learn they cannot smoke here they go somewhere they can.”

Basel Jabbour, 28, assistant manger of Barista expresso, initially noticed a 40 per cent drop in sales.

Ala Belayo, the 26-year-old supervisor at Bloomsbury, said despite prominent no-smoking signs, some still attempt to flout the rules.

“Some try and smoke here but we immediately report them to the mall management,” she said.

At Marina Mall, where there are 17 coffee shops, the smoking ban was also widely acknowledged.

Mohammed Mahdi, the 39-year-old Iranian manager of Lips cafe, welcomed the ban, saying it led to an increase in customers and a jump in profits.

“Before the smokers would come and would stay a long time,” he said. “But the families would not come because of the smoke. Now, a lot of families come.”

However, many would not agree.

At Papa Roti, supervisor Ahmed Farouk, 28, said about 60 to 70 per cent of his customers used to be smokers. Despite having an outdoor smoking area, many people are put off by the heat and would prefer to go to a shisha cafe on the Corniche, he said.

“You take away the smoking and of course you are going to lose business,” he said, adding that takings had dropped by about 40 per cent.

Some cafes have introduced measures to encourage smokers to keep visiting the malls.

Marina Mall’s Cinnamon City opened an outdoor smoking section when the ban came into place, while at Cafe De la Paix, the waiter said smokers were allowed to use the fire exit at the rear of the cafe to have a cigarette.

At one cafe in a far-flung area of the mall – the Tea Lounge Cafe – when asked if smoking was available, a waiter pointed towards a quiet corner.

“You can smoke there,” he said. “But try and not let the security guard see.”

When asked if this was because smoking was banned, he replied: “Yes. Smoking is not allowed.”

At Abu Dhabi Mall, all 10 coffee shops enforced a strict no-smoking policy.

Diane Manzon, 31, the supervisor of the mall’s Eric Kayser cafe, has noticed a 30 per cent decline in profits. “As you can see – it is a lot quieter,” she said.

Jacquel Wachina, supervisor at Cafe Nero, said the cafe had always operated a no-smoking policy and welcomed the ban.

“It is better now that all cafes do the same,” she said. “We used to get customers complaining about the smoke from other coffee shops.”

All Abu Dhabi Mall cafes recently received a letter from the management reminding them of the smoking ban, she said.

Mugg and Bean supervisor Jonathan Gerodias, 41, also received the memo.

“I am not sure what the fine is – maybe about Dh3,000,” he said. “I think some cafes may still allow it but they face their own risk. We don’t take that chance.

source:  the national