It is not considered acceptable for Qatari women to smoke. Shisha (see below) is generally considered more acceptable, but most Qatari women still do not smoke Shisha in public. Not all Arabs share this view, and it is common to see Lebanese families enjoying a shisha together after a pleasant meal in Souq Waqif!
Qatar has an active anti-smoking policy in place, and an anti-smoking unit at the Supreme Council of Health to enforce it. Surgeries and hospitals are festooned with posters and images and there are strict anti-smoking laws in place.
Laws and Regulations
It is illegal to smoke in enclosed public places such as malls and most restaurants and cafes. While the law has at time been openly flouted, more recently very hefty fines have been handed out to people breaking the law; in April 2010 $14,000 in fines were handed out.
It is, however, legal to smoke outside at cafes and restaurants, and with its sunny climate that means the restriction is not a huge problem for most of the year. In some restaurants there are also completely enclosed areas where smokers can enjoy their cigarettes.
Despite the regulations on public places, it remains legal to smoke in bars, and the bars are just as smoky as the pubs and nightclubs of the UK and America in the past.
Taxes and prices
Despite the anti-smoking stance taken by the government, prices remain low when compared to the UK or the US. A pack of 20 Marlboro in a local shop will set you back around 7 or 8 riyals or around $2.
Shisha is the local name for the hookah or water pipe, also known as hubbly bubbly or the narghile. It is commonly thought to be safer than smoking, with smokers believing that the water strains the impurities out of the smoke. This belief has survived for centuries, with legend stating that the physician Hakim Abul Fath invented the device for the Emperor Akbar in order to render the Emporer’s smoking habit ‘harmless’.
Whether it is safe or not remains controversial. Some anti-smoking groups maintain that it many times worse than smoking, and that the tin foil used may add carcinogens to the mix. In addition, if not properly cleaned water pipes at cafes may harbour harmful bacteria which can be passed from customer to customer. However, websites like the Sacred Nargile maintain this is pseudo science, denying that Shisha is more harmful than cigarettes.
Although electronic cigarettes are banned in neighbouring Saudi Arabia and the UAE, there does not seem to be a strong policy on them in Qatar. While you can not buy the devices directly in Qatar, ECigaretteDirect, a British electronic cigarette company, supply the electronic cigarette directly to Qatar via Aramex.
While it is available, Cannabis is illegal and usage or drug dealing will lead to a prison sentence. We strongly recommend that you do not use cannabis during your stay in Qatar.