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Strengthened regulation of tobacco-free venues at FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™

13 November 2022

World Health Organization

Footballs won’t be the only things kicked in Qatar at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. Tobacco and e-cigarettes will also be kicked out of Doha’s eight stadiums, ensuring fans can enjoy smoke-free air while sitting in their seats watching world football’s biggest event.

Implementing tobacco and smoke-free measures at the FIFA World Cup™ has been the goal of a unique partnership between FIFA, the Government of Qatar and the World Health Organization (WHO) to make the tournament healthy and safe.   

“Each of the three partners have long promoted effective tobacco control measures, while also raising awareness around tobacco health hazards,” according to Dr Rayana Bou Haka, WHO Representative to Qatar. “They have also backed the implementation of a tobacco-free policy at FIFA sporting events. Still, evidence shows that successful tobacco-free mega sporting events depend on effective communication and enforcement of policies.”

The FIFA Event Policy for Tobacco is in line with WHO recommendations for mega-sporting events and aims to protect people’s right to breathe clean air, uncontaminated by carcinogens and other harmful substances. The policy prohibits smoking and vaping in the stadium bowl and only allows it in outdoor designated smoking areas in the outer perimeter of the stadiums.

The strengthened regulation to make venues safe for fans is part of a unique collaboration between FIFA, WHO and the Ministry of Public Health, Qatar, designed to harness the power of football to protect and promote health for all. This, in turn, will create a blueprint for protecting and promoting health at mass gatherings which can then be shared with other sports organisations.

Tobacco remains one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing 7 million people a year from direct tobacco use, and a further 1.2 million from the effects of second-hand smoke, according to WHO. The tournament organizers have taken measures with the goal of ensuring fans can enjoy the match without exposure to second-hand smoke.

FIFA has long been committed to countering the use of tobacco, being considered a pioneer among sports organizations in this respect. As far back as 1986, in the days when tobacco sponsorship was commonplace in sports, FIFA announced it would no longer accept advertising from the tobacco industry.

Qatar will be assigning a team of 80 tobacco inspectors to support FIFA volunteers and security staff in enforcing the FIFA Event Policy on Tobacco during the FIFA World Cup, which runs from 21 November to 18 December. Visual and audio communications tools have also been designed to reach the sizeable audience and raise awareness by FIFA, Qatar and WHO, including Florence, a virtual health worker created by WHO, able to provide digital counselling services to those trying to quit tobacco.

“Qatar has been a frontrunner in tobacco control in the region,” said Dr Kholoud Ateeq K M Al-Motawaa, head of noncommunicable disease for Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health. “For the FIFA World Cup, tobacco control measures have been developed for inside and outside stadiums, especially in public places, while tobacco-free environments in fan zones will be rigorously enforced where supporters without tickets can watch games on large screens surrounded by smoke-free air.”

FIFA recognises that exposure to second-hand smoke and vapours is harmful. “The FIFA World Cup in Qatar will have a global audience of five billion people, which gives football a significant platform for social change,” said FIFA Head of Sustainability Federico Addiechi. “For two decades, global tournaments have been played in tobacco-free environments, but it is a necessary step to strengthen the implementation of that policy in Doha in November and December and we are committed to do so.”

Tobacco has also long represented a serious challenge to ongoing efforts to prevent noncommunicable diseases in many countries. Noncommunicable diseases, mainly cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes are a leading cause of premature death.

“Prohibiting the use, sale and promotion of tobacco products at sporting events remains a key step in the battle against tobacco and illness associated with tobacco,” said Vinayak Prasad, WHO technical advisor on tobacco control. “The FIFA World Cup being held in Qatar in 2022 offers a powerful opportunity to take global tobacco control efforts to a new level.”