Severe penalties for vaping can include three months in prison or fines of up to 10,000 riyals (around USD 2.6k). Soccer fans heading to the 2022 World Cup are being warned by smoking cessation experts at Vape Club not to vape while in Qatar, where vaping is illegal and violators face imprisonment or heavy fines.
Fans heading to Qatar for the tournament, which began on 21 November, are being reminded that behaviours they consider normal might be against the law.
It’s prohibited to vape in Qatar or import vapes into the country, and it’s been illegal since 2014. Penalties for e-cigarette-related crimes can receive a maximum of three months in prison or fines of up to 10,000 riyals (around USD 2,600). Experts predict this will drive many travelling soccerl fans back onto cigarettes after successfully quitting smoking, potentially setting them back years in their quitting journey.
Dr Kholood al-Mutawaa, head of the Non-Communicable Disease Department at the Ministry of Public Health, speaking in 2016*, said: “The e-cigarette was banned in Qatar according to a ministry order in 2014. We have instructed all supermarkets, pharmacies and other outlets not to sell it. We have also communicated with the customs department at the airport, seaport and the land border not to allow e-cigarettes into Qatar.
“People can’t bring it to the country or order it from other countries. Others can’t send it to the country either. Anyone who is in possession of e-cigarettes may be charged with appropriate action.”
According to WHO data, around 12% of the adult population in Qatar smokes tobacco, less than the US rate of 14%. However, in Qatar, shisha smoking is more widespread despite warnings from the British Heart Foundation that a shisha session can be equivalent to inhaling over 100 cigarettes.
Dan Marchant, director of Vape Club, says: “We hear of different attitudes towards vaping in places where it’s been banned, but if vaping is banned in the country you’re travelling to, it’s best to not risk a fine, or worse. Soccer fans heading to Qatar for the World Cup need to be especially careful: the penalties there are particularly severe.
“Because the UK has such a progressive attitude towards harm reduction and recognises the huge role vaping has to play in achieving a smokefree future, we tend to forget that there are many other countries around the world who are so far behind us. How any country can ban vaping over tobacco use is beyond me, and seems completely anti-science and anti-public health.
“I just hope that quitters don’t find themselves turning back to cigarettes in Qatar. There’s a real danger of this. Being deprived of their vapes as a source of nicotine to replace a harmful tobacco product could easily push people back to cigarettes while in Qatar. Once this happens, it could consign the smoker back to months or years of cigarette use before being able to quit again.”