Kuwait Times, Tuesday, Sep 19, 2023 | Rabi Al-Awwal 4, 1445
Cigarettes ignite anger of the law
In Kuwait, a lack of adherence to the law
has become common among legal professionals who are supposed to uphold the law.
This irony has significant negative consequences, especially since legal
professionals serve as unique example of validating the law, ensuring
professionalism and public safety based on the legal system.
Due to the nature of legal professionals’ work, the court is seen as a
respectful institution. Thus, smoking within court premises dishonors the
sanctity of the place. By smoking in undesignated areas, legal professionals may
unintentionally undermine the public’s trust in the legitimacy of the judicial
system. Multiple lawyers expressed their objection and dissatisfaction with this
matter to Kuwait Times, emphasizing on the necessity of enforcing the law.
Smoking inside the courts undermines the dignity of the law
Secretary of Kuwait Environment Protection Society, lawyer Shoug Shabkouh, told
Kuwait Times the law serves public interest, individuals and society, and
prevails over personal interests. Therefore, certain acts are considered crimes
and have deterrent penalties to prevent the spread of negative phenomena in
society. Cigarettes, in fact, ignite the anger of the law. Smoking in enclosed
and semi-enclosed public places has become a negative and widespread phenomenon.
Some smokers disregard the health of individuals and society, causing serious
harm to both individuals and the environment.
Recently, this phenomenon has been noticed in courts, where the law should be
respected more than anywhere else. The court represents the dignity of the law
and issues judgments against the violators of that law. Courts are considered
closed spaces where smoking is prohibited, as stated in article 56 of
environmental protection law no. 42 of 2014, amended by law no. 99 of 2015. It
states that smoking is strictly prohibited in public transportation and enclosed
and semi-enclosed public places, except in designated areas according to the
regulations determined by the executive regulations of this law.
Article 138 of the same law addresses the punishment for smoking. The smoker is
subject to a fine of not less than KD 50 and not exceeding KD 100. Furthermore,
the law has given the environmental police the authority to issue citations
against violators of this law. Despite the existence of a law that criminalizes
smoking, some smokers show a lack of social responsibility and do not care about
the health of others. Despite the presence of many designated smoking areas and
warning signs indicating the illegality of the act, some individuals refrain
from smoking in designated areas and smoke in courtrooms, staircases and
corridors without considering the consequences of their selfish actions.
They put the health and safety of others at risk, leading to respiratory
diseases and exposing them to secondhand smoke, which can cause heart diseases
and cancers. Shabkouh added that for every problem, there is a solution. The
solution lies in increasing awareness of the negative effects of this phenomenon
and installing surveillance cameras in the areas where smoking is banned by the
law to monitor violations and assist judicial police officers.
Real-life incident: Disregarding the rules
Aisha Al-Awadhi, a lawyer, shared with Kuwait Times an incident that happened at
Kuwait’s Palace of Justice: “On my way down the stairs, I came across an
employee who has placed a chair for himself to sit and smoke in the hallway.
While he was doing so, I passed by and I was bothered by the smell of smoke, so
I asked him to put out the cigarette to avoid harming people passing through the
hallway. But the smoker replied he will not put out the cigarette and asked me
what I would do about it, stating he will not quit smoking and will do whatever
I replied to him that smoking is prohibited by law and if he is not aware of
that, I can call the environmental police to prove it. “At that point, he
replied he will come with me to the police station himself. We went together to
the police station and while walking there, I called 112 (the emergency line).
When I entered the police office (the palace police), I saw a policeman was also
smoking inside the office. I asked him to put out the cigarette as well.
He did as I asked, then asked me about the problem. I explained that I wanted
the environmental police to come and issue a citation. “During that time, the
emergency line was with me on the call, so the officer asked me to give him my
mobile phone and he spoke to the operations and told them that he is a policeman
from the palace police and that the matter is under their control and attention,
so there is no need for intervention, and ended the call. He then took me to the
office of the officer in charge of the courthouse.
I explained to him as well that it is necessary to issue a citation to those who
violate the law and smoke in closed places where smoking is prohibited,
especially since I am one of the individuals affected by this matter. “That day,
I was very busy and couldn’t give this issue much time because I had work to
complete. But I did what I could, as I made an oral complaint to the security
and safety supervisor at the courthouse, and he told me that they have requested
the presence of an environmental police office at our location because this is a
problem that bothers many individuals.
The supervisor did not disregard it, and in the end, I hope there will be a
serious stance on this issue.” Furthermore, Awadhi highlighted the necessity of
taking the law and its penalties more seriously, where the violator is punished
for their unlawful actions. This would have a significant positive impact. She
also suggested that the person responsible for this matter should be a
non-smoker, as they may be more understanding and responsive to non-smoking
Attorney Hmoud Al-Failkawi also mentioned his suffering and dissatisfaction over
people smoking in non-designated areas, especially in courts, which are
considered a good example for society. He also expressed his rejection of some
environmental policemen who hesitate to enforce violations against smokers in
non-designated areas, perhaps out of fear of certain positions or for other
reasons. Failakawi then emphasized that everyone must adhere to the law
regardless of their position, and it is the responsibility of the police
officers to carry out their duties as the law guarantees them the right to
Individuals’ freedoms and social responsibility
People have the right to enjoy their freedom by doing what they please as long
as their actions do not harm others. When other individuals are negatively
affected by those actions, this freedom will be limited according to social
responsibility that secures everyone’s benefit.
This point was highlighted by international lawyer Bedour Al-Rasheed, who agreed
with the abovementioned attorneys. “It is the responsibility of every person to
exercise their personal freedom within limits that do not exceed or harm the
rights and freedoms of others. The phenomenon of smoking has spread greatly
recently, despite the existence of the general environmental authority law’s
article 3, which prohibits smoking at government and private facilities.
Unfortunately, we see that the law is not enforced and smoking has increased in
courts, causing harm to us (non-smoking lawyers) in terms of health and
environment, as well as presenting an uncivilized sight of smoking by some
colleagues, employees and visitors,” she said. “Smoking poses a danger to
everyone, especially pregnant women, the elderly and children. Those who choose
to smoke bear the responsibility for its harms, but what fault does someone have
in choosing to live a healthy life and preserve the environment?”
Rasheed further emphasized that smoking in the courtroom affects peoples’
health, the environment, and the overall reputation and development of the
country. “It should be noted that courts are always crowded with people of all
nationalities and social classes, which makes failure to abide by laws within
the court very crucial,” she said.
Haya Al-Mutairi, who is also a lawyer, added: “As lawyers, we often find
ourselves in courtrooms and prosecution offices on daily basis, where we
encounter visitors from various backgrounds who violate the regulations that are
set to organize people’s presence inside these enclosed spaces. Also, we
sometimes come across violators in the hallways. What makes the matter worse is
when a smoking legal professional joins us during the hours of investigation
with our clients.
These individuals are unaware that some of us suffer from asthma, allergies or
respiratory diseases, which can lead to complications or adversely affect those
who have quit smoking. Some courts have resorted to employing a police officer
within the court to immediately penalize anyone who exhibits such behavior
outside the designated smoking areas.
This is a commendable practice that we hope will continue and expand.” Attorney
Laalea Al-Khudairi emphasized on this matter: “According to statistics from the
World Health Organization, exposure of non-smokers to smoke leads to 600,000
premature deaths annually, with women accounting for 64 percent of these
Enforcing the law
Attorney and consultant on the women, family and children committee of the
Kuwaiti National Assembly Athra’a Al-Refaie expressed her objection to smoking
inside the court, and further clarified about the laws in this regard, as she
said everyone is aware of the damages caused by smoking in enclosed spaces and
the resulting health hazards for both smokers and non-smokers. Therefore,
legislators paid attention and set environmental protection law no. 42 of 2014,
which prohibits smoking in enclosed spaces.
They also banned advertising and promotion of smoking and imposed stricter
penalties. Thus, we find legal provisions and executive regulations prohibit
smoking in public places and public transportation, and impose penalties of not
less than KD 50,000 and not exceeding KD 200,000 for violating the ban on
advertising and promoting cigarettes and the ban on smoking in enclosed public
places and semi-enclosed places, as well as public transportation. As mentioned
earlier, the penalty for smoking in enclosed public places and semi-enclosed
places, as well as public transportation, is not less than KD 50 and not
exceeding KD 100.
The responsibility for the violation also extends to the manager responsible of
the establishment, who will face a fine of not less than KD 1,000 and not
exceeding KD 5,000. The law also granted the environmental police the authority
to issue penalties to those who commit such violations. However, their absence
from court buildings has led some individuals to commit these violations without
the slightest respect for those around them.
“Therefore, we demand that the authorities enforce stricter measures and send
environmental police officers to prevent smoking in court buildings due to the
environmental and health hazards it causes for those around them,” Refaie said.
Concurring, Khudairi said: “Despite all legislative efforts, violations
continue. A court ruling was previously issued obligating the ministry of
justice to allocate smoking areas at Farwaniya and Jahra courts, but they were
not adhered to.
It is difficult for us as lawyers to file a complaint because the requirement of
judicial jurisdiction, mandated by the environmental protection law, is not
available.” Similarly, attorney Haya Al-Ajmi said: “We still witness some
uncivilized scenes in courts where some members of the ministry of interior,
ministry of justice and some colleagues smoke inside the court premises without
consideration for others.
It is worth noting that there are designated smoking rooms, yet the corridors
and halls of the court are still filled with smokers. Therefore, there should be
a dedicated environmental police office at all courts to ensure the enforcement
of the law, as the court is a prestigious judicial institution and an important
face of the state.”