DUBAI // Shisha cafes and coffee shops and restaurants with smoking areas have been ordered to put up notices alerting customers to the dangers of passive smoking.

The signs highlight the particular risks to babies, pregnant women and people under 18, and businesses will be advised not to allow these groups into smoking areas.

Establishments that fail to put up the signs from the beginning of August will be initially warned, then fined or temporarily shut down.

“The campaign aims to protect basic human rights, including the right to take informed decisions,” said Walid Abdul Malik, a senior official at the Department of Economic Development’s consumer protection division.

“A child has a right to healthy living like everyone else, whether he is in his mother’s womb or out in this world.”

The department is working with Dubai Health Authority on the campaign and meetings have already been held with outlets.

“Young people also need guidance until they are mature enough to make informed decisions,” said Mr Malik.

“They should not be given a chance to be part of or involved in harmful practices like smoking.”

Health experts said the campaign was a step in the right direction. “Passive smoking can cause respiratory problems as well as increasing the risk of cardiac arrest, asthma and even lung cancer,” said Dr Wedad Al Maidoor, head of the National Tobacco Control Committee at the Health Ministry.

“There was a lot of panic from businesses when the no smoking rules came into force in shopping malls a few years ago.

“They were worried that people would stop going and it would ruin trade, but that never happened.”

A survey of smoking habits in schools in Dubai in 2006 found children were at risk if their parents smoked at home, and growing numbers of youngsters were taking up the habit or considering doing so, she said.

“Parents should also be targeted because they are the role models.”

Inhaling tobacco smoke can also cause infections of the ear, nose and throat in newborns. For pregnant women, passive smoking is said to add to the risk of low birth weight and premature birth.

Omar Al Khabbaz, business development manager for the Lounge Wish restaurant in Al Barsha, also welcomed the move.

“I’m not aware of this campaign but it seems like a good idea,” he said.

Most of Mr Al Khabbaz’s customers are businessmen and women. “People usually come here for business meetings and that kind of thing, so I don’t think we would be too affected by the campaign as we don’t get families.”

Even some smokers outside the Mashawi restaurant in The Greens gave a cautious welcome to the campaign. “It’s a good thing,” said one.

“The problem is that this area has a lot of families and young people passing by so I don’t know how they would enforce it.”

Others felt it was unnecessary. “To be honest you’re not going to see many children and babies at these places in the first place,” said Muddassir Hussein, from Pakistan.

“People should be able to make up their own minds if they want to smoke of not, but it should be based on an informed choice and they shouldn’t be forced into it.”

Worldwide 600,000 people die of passive smoking each year, said Dr Ramadan Ibrahim Mohammed, director of health regulation at Dubai Health Authority.

“A study conducted by the authority in 2010 showed 46 people sought medical help in Dubai for complications related to passive smoking.

“We are thankful to the Department of Economic Development for supporting us in tackling this public health challenge.”

Breaches of the new directive on passive smoking can be reported by calling Ahlan Dubai on 600 545555.