A couple of years back, I noted that Lebanon had introduced a smoking ban:
BEIRUT — A smoking ban in all closed public spaces, including coffee shops, restaurants and bars, went into force in Lebanon on Monday under new legislation that promises hefty fines for lawbreakers.
In a country considered a “smokers’ paradise,” the law took effect a year ago in airports, hospitals and schools, but took hold on a wider basis on Monday, also banning tobacco advertisements criticised for luring youths into the habit.
Smokers caught lighting up in a closed public space face a $90 penalty, while restaurant or cafe owners who turn a blind eye to offenders could be fined anything from $900 to $2,700…
It was met with discontent among clients of the coffee shops of the central Hamra district of Beirut.
“We have mountains of waste and minibuses spewing carbon dioxide. The government would have done better to address these issues before prohibiting smoking,” said Saad Fleifel, peering over a nargileh on a cafe terrace.
Like the majority of people interviewed by AFP, he accused the authorities of depriving him of the right to “unwind” in Lebanon, a country plagued by years of war, instability and economic woes.
Now, H/T Harley, it may about to be relaxed.
Lebanon’s Law 174 goes up in smoke
On Saturday Mohammad Machnouk, Lebanon’s interior minister, announced that the much-buffeted Law 174, which banned smoking in public places, such as cafes, restaurants, bars, government buildings and offices, was to be “relaxed”. Presumably this was to ease the burden on a hospitality sector still reeling from a decimated tourism industry and the ongoing political chaos. It prompted a jubilant head of Lebanon’s syndicate of restaurant owners to claim, rather bizarrely, that the move protected “Lebanon and its cuisine.” .
When the legislation was enacted in September 2012, the private sector went nuts, claiming that US$50 million worth of business and about 2,500 jobs would be lost as a result of the new edict. Owners claimed business, which was already down 30 per cent because of a disastrous summer season, had plummeted by another 30 per cent virtually overnight.
Lebanon’s enthusiastic smokers, meanwhile, were left wondering why they would suddenly be liable for a $450 fine, while who they saw as the real criminals were getting away, in some cases literally, with murder. It was hard not to sympathise. Since then, Law 174 has been gradually abused by a combination of bad enforcement and the ingenuity of business owners who have found loopholes.
The author of the article is clearly an antismoker.
I am quite convinced that the majority of Lebanon’s smokers do not know that around half of all smokers die from smoking-related diseases with a life expectancy of about 10 years less than a non-smoker. In Britain, where there are about 10 million adult smokers, the number of ex-smokers now exceeds that of smokers, while more and more people are either quitting or deciding not to start. Compare this to the middle of the 20th century, when 85 per cent of British men smoked. Public campaigns work.
Thirty years ago in Britain it was still possible to smoke on the bus and the Underground, something that would be inconceivable now. Since 2007, when it was forbidden to smoke in public and enclosed spaces, people have adjusted. The cost of a packet of cigarettes — now a staggering £10 (Dh56) — has surely helped to convince people to give up. My wife, a committed smoker in Lebanon, has stopped since moving to England. It is simply too expensive she says. QED.
Why should smoking on buses be “inconceivable”? I can well remember it, and can well imagine it.
And a great many people (myself included) have not “adjusted” to the 2007 UK public smoking ban: I hate it just as much now as I did back in 2007.
This current development is ultimately about Lebanon’s inability to enforce the rule of law; its rather worrying habit of putting crude business interests ahead of the public good and its reluctance to embrace the lesson learnt in other countries. With only 70 per cent of restaurants and bars currently abiding by the law, the amendment will be seen as a green light to spark up at will across the nation. Law 174, has in effect, been killed and Mr Machnouk, who drew criticism for himself smoking during a TV interview at the interior ministry, should be ashamed of himself.
I would have been delighted to see Mr Machnouk light up. I’d like to see more UK politicians doing the same. And it’s about time business interests were put ahead of so-called public health.
But it may only be a proposal to amend law 174.
BEIRUT: The syndicate of restaurant owners said Saturday that Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk supported their demand to relax a 2012 smoking ban.
After meeting with the minister, syndicate chief Tony al-Rami said that that Machnouk “expressed his agreement and support to the proposed amendment, because it protects the Lebanon and its cuisine.”
Rami did not specify what the amendment contains. But restaurant and pub owners have long fought against the law forbidding smoking inside enclosed spaces, complaining that it’s bad for business…
Health Minister Wael Abu Faour noted last month that the smoking ban was being widely violated, and announced that his ministry would carry out “raids” to ensure it was applied. Due to security forces being engaged with other priorities such as combatting terrorism, a number of venues have shrugged off the smoking ban altogether.
Lebanon’s tourism police strictly enforced the law in the first few weeks after its adoption, especially in Beirut. But restaurants and bars gradually became more lenient regarding smoking indoors after they realized authorities were no longer enforcing the law.
Yes, I suppose combating terrorism might just be more important than enforcing a widely disregarded smoking ban.
But when Tobacco Control flies its rapid reaction heavy mob into Lebanon later on this week, they’ll probably decide that enforcing the smoking ban is, on reflection, more important than combating terrorism.