Smoking Ban Enters into Force amid Protest to Amend Anti-Tobacco Legislationإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
A smoking ban in Lebanon is likely to drive cigarette smokers out into the street but shisha smokers will find the most difficulty in taking their water pipes out of restaurants and cafes.
The ban entered into force on Monday in accordance with Law 174, which passed a year ago.
But the owners of restaurants in the town of Antelias north of Beirut held a sit-in to protest the ban and call for the amendment of the law.
The protestors held placards saying “You are forbidden to light a cigarette but you are allowed to set the country on fire.”
Another placard read: “Have mercy on Lebanon’s tourism.”
However, Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud said any possible amendment should be studied by the parliament and not by resorting to the street after the owner of al-Saniour restaurant, Tony al-Saniour, hinted that the protestors could block roads.
The owners also said they would shut down for one day and form a committee to resolve the issue.
The head of the parliamentary health committee, MP Atef Majdalani, stressed in remarks to Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) that the ban is aimed at preserving the health of people and preventing some from causing health problems to others.
He also ruled out the possibility of dividing restaurants, cafes and nightclubs into smoking and non-smoking sections.
The latest studies in countries that implemented the ban showed that the percentage of severe heart attacks has dropped by 17-19 percent, Majdalani told An Nahar daily.
The total ban on Monday came a year after smoking was prohibited in public offices, hospitals and education institutions and less than seven months after the authorities banned cigarette and tobacco ads.
The anti-tobacco legislation has faced the criticism of the associations of restaurants and hotels that have called for amending it amid warnings to take escalatory measures in case of lack of government action.
They argue that it would cut business and drive some establishments to bankruptcy.
Members of the judicial police, the inspectors of the Ministry of Public Health, the Directorate of Consumer Protection in the Economy Ministry and the tourist police will be in charge of monitoring the implementation of the law’s provisions.
A minimum LL135,000 ($90) fine for non-compliance with the new smoke-free regulations will be applied to both the owners and the smokers themselves.
Shisha smokers will be the most affected as smoking water pipes has become part of the Lebanese culture and a rising number of people from all ages are becoming addicted.
They consider shisha a recreational activity.
The National Tobacco Control Program of the Health Ministry says more than 3500 Lebanese die each year from tobacco-related diseases.