Enforce ban on waterpipe smoking in Mauritius
On January 30, 2019, VISA wrote to the Prime Minister of Mauritius to draw his attention to the opening and operation of an increasing number of waterpipe (commonly known as “shisha”) smoking outlets throughout Mauritius. The following points were raised:
- The opening and operation of waterpipe/shisha smoking outlets is in contravention with the Public Health (Restrictions on Tobacco Products) Regulations 2008 which ban the manufacture, importation or sale of tobacco products for use in waterpipes.
- Evidence abounds on the harmfulness of waterpipe smoking to health. According to the World Health Organisation, it is “damaging to health in similar ways to cigarette tobacco use” and “second-hand smoke from waterpipes poses a serious risk for those inhaling it”. The British Heart Foundation states that waterpipe tobacco, like cigarettes, contains nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and heavy metals and waterpipe smokers are at risk of the same kinds of diseases as cigarette smokers, such as heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases”. It adds: “In one puff of shisha you inhale there is the same amount of smoke as you would get from smoking a whole cigarette”.
- An increasing number of countries, in Africa and elsewhere, are taking measures to ban the importation, sale, and use of waterpipes. Rwanda, for example, has totally banned the smoking of waterpipes. Uganda is currently conducting an aggressive crackdown on waterpipe smoking outlets that are banned and operating illegally.
- VISA notes with concern that in Mauritius no action is being taken to enforce the ban on the use of waterpipes for smoking as required by the Public Health (Restrictions on Tobacco Products) Regulations 2008.
- This has resulted in the proliferation of waterpipe smoking outlets throughout the island. It is also indicative of the fact that Mauritius is not in conformity with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control of the World Health Organisation (WHO FCTC) which it ratified in 2004. Ratification imposes legal and moral obligations on Mauritius to adhere to the Convention which, in its preamble, calls upon Parties to take “all necessary steps to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke”.
- Experience from other countries indicates that the tobacco industry often uses its front groups to pressure national authorities to allow smoking of cigarettes and waterpipes in the hospitality sector, based on the assumption that it attracts more customers and generates more revenue for the sector and government. In reality, bans on tobacco use in the hospitality sector have never led to a decline in customers or profits. For example, in Ireland and New York city such bans have led to increased revenue, more customers, better working environments and improved health for workers.
- In view of the above, VISA appealed to the Prime Minister that the Public Health (Restrictions on Tobacco Products) Regulations 2008 be strictly enforced to ban the opening and operation of waterpipe (shisha) smoking outlets in Mauritius. The ban should be universal, including bars, restaurants, nightclubs and hotels.
- VISA pointed out that each year, tobacco kills more than seven million people in the world and one thousand in Mauritius. It kills more than AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, suicide, road accidents, and illicit drugs combined. It is also one of the major risk factors for the increasing tide of non-communicable diseases in Mauritius. VISA, therefore, looks forward to your government giving due consideration to this issue with a view to harnessing the tobacco epidemic and upholding public health.