Stubbing it out

Will the Dubai's proposed smoking ban give facilities managers more to think about?

ANALYSIS, Facilities Management

FMs will have more to think about on May 31, as Dubai follows hotly in the footsteps of the US and Western Europe by implementing a smoking ban. The dangers of passive smoking are now well documented and the government is stepping in to reduce the risk to non-smokers. The decision has come quickly, and many have seen it as a surprise announcement but officials insist that it is in line with the Dubai Strategic Plan 2007 - 2015 to protect public health and improve the quality of life for UAE nationals and expatriates living in Dubai. The speed of its implementation means FMs will have to think fast about the many issues related to making a building non-smoking.

The ban is to be regulated in three phases. The first of which is to occur on May 31, coinciding with World No Tobacco Day will see a ban on smoking in government buildings and public places, like libraries.

The second phase will be launched on September 15 and will regulate smoking in shopping centres and amusement parks. By this date shopping centres, cafes and restaurants are to have designated smoking areas that meet prerequisites, such as proper ventilation and smoke absorbers installed. In addition to this persons under the age of 21 will not be allowed into these areas.

The third and final phase will start on November 15 and will include a blanket ban on smoking in educational establishments, including schools and universities, plus hair saloons, health clubs, internet cafes, food courts and offices. To enforce the ban the director general of Dubai Municipality has stated that fines will be imposed on violators from 2008, as per the Local Order No.11 of 2003 pertaining to public health and environment. It is not yet known what the value of the fines will be.

As facilities management Middle East went to print a press conference had been scheduled for May 31, which was to clear up any vagaries regarding the ban. This will be followed by an awareness campaign to educate people on where they can and can't light up.

All this means extra things for the FM of a building to think about; whether it is creating smoking areas within an eating facility or installing proper ventilation within a building.

It is important for FMs to consider the areas within an office or outside a building that will be used by smokers and to install the correct equipment to deal with their requirements. With large numbers of smokers congregating outside buildings, smoking related litter will also become an issue.

Whatever the issues at hand, some FMs are already implementing changes.

Melissa-Kate Ashwell
Job title: EHS & Quality Manager
Responsible for: EHS & Quality
Company: Serco Gulf LLC
Based in: Dubai
Background: Integrated Services

The idea behind the ban is to provide people with a choice to smoke and to ensure those who don't aren't forced to passively inhale someone else's.

There is now a lot of medical evidence to prove that smoking (and passive smoking) is harmful; smoking is an addictive habit.

Providers of FM will have a hard time banning smoking in the premises under their responsibility. Smokers cannot just stop, so resources and provisions will need to be made to accommodate existing smokers. The number of smokers in the UAE is high due to the vast mix of cultures and the availability of cheap cigarettes.

Banning smoking without careful consideration of smokers' needs will result in litter outside the main entrance, fire stairwells, doorways and anywhere else the smoker can retreat to. This makes premises unattractive and the smell of cigarettes can linger, or secret smoking can even set off fire alarm systems.

Banning smoking needs careful consideration. A project plan should be developed to create dedicated smoking areas for staff by providing cigarette bins, outdoor sheltered seating in smoking shelters. Creating such an area will provide a focal point for smokers and staff will know where to go and hopefully they will feel responsible for the areas cleanliness as they will be the ones using it.

In addition to creating an area, FM providers will need to consider advising customers, visitors and employees where they are allowed to smoke, how to get there and remind them to keep the area tidy. ‘No Smoking' signs will have to be installed throughout the premises and information given to the building's occupants. Ideally occupational health should be involved to assist any smoker who wishes to stop - smokers need help and will flounder if left.
This task it daunting enough for office and commercial premises, where FM providers are dealing with specific employees and clients. When you add in members of the general public then the task is tremendous.

Name: Abou Laban
Job title: Business Development Manager
Responsible for: Developing Business in Abu Dhabi
Company: EMCOR Facilities Services
Based in: Abu Dhabi
Background: Bsc. Mechanical Engineering, Msc. in Management. MECSC Member.

The smoking ban will have a big impact on existing office facilities. The facilities manager will have to implement new procedures to cope with these new regulations and at the same time accommodate smokers within the office space. The law still is not yet fully defined i.e.should buildings provide smoking areas or ban smoking completely within the facility?

A smoking employee will waste a lot of time per smoking break. Therefore, it is worth considering all the productive time being lost to an employer.

If smoking is restricted within buildings, staff will try wherever possible to smoke within the premises; which will cause health and safety issues within the building as well as creating a possible fire and safety hazard. Some of them will use the toilets, pantries and even emergency stairs if they can.

The new law could take into consideration the need to assign a specified smoking area within the premises. However, for an existing building, a holistic reassessment needs to be carried out on a case by case basis to tailor a solution. These solutions can incorporate some of the latest technologies in the field of indoor air quality management.

The layout of the building would need to be reviewed to determine if a smoking room equipped with special ventilation systems could be provided. Those retrofits should follow ASHRAE 62 standard as a minimum to prevent smoke re-circulation to non-smoking areas by keeping the smoking areas negatively pressurised and isolating the room return air from the rest of the HVAC system.

Also, to maintain an acceptable indoor air quality within the smoking area by adequately replacing the room contaminated air with fresh air and monitoring / controlling the level of contaminants. The use of IAQ sensors and electrostatic filters will play a major role in this issue.

Name: Sasha Doran
Job title: Senior facilities consultant
Responsible for: Providing FM consultancy and management to corporate clients and developers throughout the Middle East
Company: EC Harris International
Based in: Dubai
Background: Experience in providing both the outsourced and in house FM Services to blue chip clients, based in the UK and Ireland prior to moving to Dubai.

Should the current legislative proposal to introduce a smoking ban be enacted into Dubai law, the role of facilities managers' throughout the Emirate will be integral to both its implementation and success.

At present, smoking is banned in the majority of office buildings in Dubai. However, there are numerous office workers who flaunt these building rules on a daily basis and choose to light up inside. This has as much to do with a lack of awareness to health and safety issues as it has to general miscommunication. Therefore, as in other countries or cities that have enacted the ban, it will be communication, cooperation, understanding and enforcement that will be the determining factors to ensure a smooth change to smoke-free buildings.

Foremost in the minds of facilities managers is likely to be the provision of alternative smoking areas such as smoking rooms or external smoking shelters. Many companies have already provided these as a matter of policy. At a glance, this may appear to be an easy solution but location, noise, smell and litter all need to be taken into consideration.

Company profile issues must be considered along with likely maintenance costs. Moreover, the Middle East climate will also have a bearing on any future decisions, as many smokers can hardly enjoy a puff outside in 40 - 50 degree temperatures for a number of months during the year.

Alternatively, some companies may choose to make no provision for smokers at all if the proposal becomes law. This generally results in employees congregating outside the main entrances, which does not enhance the corporate image that firms work hard to achieve, or the value of the buildings, which they have either purchased or leased. Also, but less likely, there may be firms who will choose to ignore the ban, thereby providing the requirement for enforcement as mentioned above.

In conclusion, there are a series of issues and parties that should be considered and consulted by many facilities managers should the smoking ban become law, so that a suitable plan can be put into place.

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