By outlawing the use of e-cigarettes at stadiums, FIFA and Qatar have started a savage two-footed attack against tobacco harm reduction and vaping at this year’s World Cup. Since the country has already outlawed the importing and use of e-cigarettes since 2014, the restriction is virtually pointless.
The Foreign Office notes:
- The FIFA World Cup will take place in Qatar from 20 November to 18 December 2022.
- If you are travelling to attend the World Cup you should sign up for email alerts to the Qatar Travel Advice page, so that you stay up to date on the latest developments. You should also monitor the official Qatar World Cup and FIFA websites for more information.
- For further detail about what the FCDO can do to support British nationals abroad, see this guide.
As part of the Qatar World Cup 2022, vaping will be outlawed alongside smoking in football stadiums and fan parks, according to a decision made by the Qatar Ministry of Public Health, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, FIFA (the world’s governing body of football), and the World Health Organization.
The WHO representative in Qatar, Dr. Rayana Bou Haka, stated in a media briefing that “each of the partners has long promoted effective tobacco control measures, while also raising awareness around tobacco health hazards,” adding that “they have also backed the implementation of a tobacco-free policy at FIFA sporting events.”
Football enthusiasts tend to smoke and vape more frequently than the average UK population, so 30% of the expected 20,000 Welsh and English supporters travelling to Qatar are likely to run into issues.
“We tend to forget that there are many other nations across the world who are so far behind us because the UK has such a progressive attitude toward harm reduction and recognises the significant role vaping has to play in attaining a smokefree future. VapeClub’s Dan Marchant is reported as saying, “I don’t understand how any government would restrict vaping over cigarette smoking; it seems absolutely anti-science and anti-public health. According to Dr. Kholood al-Mutawaa of the Ministry of Public Health, “The e-cigarette was banned in Qatar according to a ministry decree in 2014. All pharmacies, grocery stores, and other businesses have been told not to sell it. We have informed the customs division at the land border, seaport, and airport not to permit e-cigarettes entering Qatar. It cannot be imported into the nation or ordered from abroad. Others are also unable to send it to the nation. Anyone found in possession of an e-cigarette may face applicable charges.”
“Qatar has been a leader in the region for tobacco control,” he stated. For the FIFA World Cup, smoke-free environments will be strictly enforced in fan zones where spectators without tickets can watch games on big screens while breathing smoke-free air. Tobacco control measures have been developed for inside and outside stadiums, particularly in public places.
What about the consequences for violators? Any person who dares to attempt to smuggle a vape into the country risks having their devices confiscated, paying fines of about £2,300, and possibly serving a three-month prison sentence.
“Obviously, attending a major football tournament is a fantastic life experience for fans, but treating Qatar like the beer garden at the local British pub might get them in hot water – even for just vaping,” Riot Labs’ Ben Johnson told journalists.