H/T Harley for news of the new Lebanon smoking ban. From the BBC:
A ban on smoking in enclosed public places has come into effect in Lebanon, prompting sit-in protests by some restaurant and cafe owners.
The ban covers bars, restaurants and cafes where traditional shisha, or hookah, water pipes are ubiquitous.
Anyone who breaks the ban faces a $90 (£57) fine. Cafe owners who turn a blind eye could be fined up to $2,700.
Smoking, which is banned in public in much of Europe and the United States, is very popular in Lebanon.
Daily smoking is more prevalent among adults in Lebanon than in any other country in the Middle East, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures from 2009.
More than 45% of men and 30% of women are estimated to be regular smokers.
Neighbouring Syria became the first Arab state to enforce a smoking ban in April 2010.
One coffee shop owner in Hamra expressed concerns about the likely impact on his business.
“Nearly 80 percent of our customers come here for the hookah. How will we do in winter when there won’t be any terraces?” he asked.
The new law was also met with derision in second city Tripoli, scene of recent fighting between pro- and anti-Syrian factions.
Law 174 didn’t last very long.
…after a September 4 timid raid on a café in the southern city of Tyre (Sur), hardly anyone was still talking about Law 174 on September 5.
The Tourism Minister warned that the ranks of the Tourism Police were severely understaffed and that there may not be enough officers available to enforce the new smoking ban. No one pointed out how funny it was to have a “tourism police”, though the good minister lamented that his current staff of around 70 was inadequate, and only 10 could actually be devoted to enforcing the smoking ban. Violators were expected to fork out fines of over $100 (Dh367), and restaurants, cafés, and other outlets would be charged fines ranging between $1,300 and $4,000.
Of course, the Lebanese and their guests continued to smoke…
I think the simple lesson is that when about half the population smokes, and there’s nobody to enforce them, smoking bans are bound to fail.
The bans really only stick if smokers are a small enough minority, and the law is rigorously enforced. With smoking having become a minority pastime in the UK and the USA and much of Western Europe, it wasn’t too difficult for smokers to be exiled from their bars and cafes. In Eastern Europe and the Arab world, it’s much harder.
It’s the tyranny of the majority. It was the same with the UK hunting ban. Most people were anti-foxhunting, so fox-hunting was banned. They did it because they could.
And it means that, when (if they ever do) most people have become vegetarians, meat will be banned in restaurants. People will complain about the ‘stink’ of cooked meat, and there’ll be junk science proving that it’s toxic, and causes cancer and heart disease, etc, etc. But basically it’ll just be holier-than-thou vegetarians forcing their preferences on everyone else, just like with the smoking ban and the foxhunting ban.
But if the law holds in some places and not in others, that doesn’t mean that once a smoking ban has come into force, it will remain in force thereafter. Most antismokers seem to think that once they’ve got their bans on the statute book, that’s the end of the matter.
But ultimately they are bad laws which demonise and exclude substantial numbers of ordinary people, and such laws are most likely to be repealed, when wiser counsels eventually prevail. They create division and discord where division and discord did not previously exist. And the demonised and excluded will inevitably unite and fight back.
You can see it happening over on Pat Nurse’s blog, where she’s been building support for an Octabber counter for the antis’ Stoptober (I’ll be joining in). But that’s not the only development there: a TV video editor is offering his services to make a video to counter the antis’ one. I suggested that Leg-iron write a fiendish plot, and it seems Leggy’s already thinking about it. If we could get Phil Williams to star in it, it could turn into something amazing.
Because this is how it happens. We smokers have all the skills, and all the resources. All that is necessary is for them to come together.