Lebanon kicks butt

Lebanon passed a law banning smoking in all enclosed public places on Wednesday, with people who light up inside facing a fine of 100,000 LL ($66) and the owner of the establishment 3 million LL ($2,000). In February, the next phase of the law will come into effect phasing out cigarette advertising. The bill also calls for a pictorial warning of the dangers of smoking covering 40 percent of each pack of cigarettes.

According to George Saade—a cardiologist and program coordinator at the National Tobacco Control Program, a department within the Ministry of Health— “Ninety-two percent of people we interviewed were in support of banning smoking in public places.”

The Ministry of Public Health worked directly with the ministries of Economy, Tourism and Interior to pass the law. Lebanon had previously ratified World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005 and was obligated to implement the law within five years, but was granted a grace period considering the political climate in the country since it signed.

But will people really put out their cigarettes in pubs and restaurants for good? NOW Lebanon hit the streets of Beirut to see what people thought of the new law.

“What about the person that’s been smoking for 20 years?” said a 43-year-old smoker at a sushi restaurant in Hamra. “They’re addicted to it. How can they expect them to stop smoking just because of a new law? There needs to be another solution. It’s unfair. Some people just can’t live without smoking.”

“It’s ridiculous,” said 25-year-old Rabia, who was sitting at a bar in the same neighborhood. “It’s insulting in a way to the freedom of smokers.”

A 24-year-old non-smoker in a Hamra bar, however, said she was happy about it. “I think it should be banned everywhere. Why are people making a big deal? People here will learn to adjust.”

“I’m a smoker and I support the law because I need something that is stronger than my willpower that will make me stop,” said 31-year-old Rita, who was sitting at a restaurant in Hamra.

Pub and restaurant owners are also of mixed minds on the new law.

A manager at a bar in Hamra who preferred not to be named said that while it will affect business at the beginning, in the long run people will get accustomed to it. “Smoke-free environments are better for ventilation purposes,” he added. “As long as people follow the law, then it won’t be a problem. This type of law has been implemented in countries like Dubai, Saudi Arabia and even Syria.”

But Annie, the co-owner of the Regusto Pub in Hamra, said that the ban “will negatively affect my business. How else is a Lebanese supposed to enjoy their time?”

Her husband and co-owner Arthur, however, agrees with the law, “because I am a non-smoker, but only if it will be implemented equally.”
Hanin Madi, manager at Bread Republic in Hamra, said that the new law “will definitely harm us on a short-term basis because it’s going to affect people; they’re going to need some time to get into a transition phase in order to accommodate themselves, but sooner or later they will fall into the system and it will work.”

“And I am definitely pro,” she added. “I am a smoker. I smoke at the bar, I need my cigarette when I’m drinking, but I will get used to it.”

But in a country with such lax law enforcement and with such a high percentage of smokers, will the law even stick?

A manager at a pub in Gemmayze, who preferred not to be named, said that “In Lebanon, we’ve grown accustomed to not following any kind of laws, so this will be the obstacle.”

“I think it will work in the beginning, but then later on people will stop following the law. Just like everything else here in Lebanon,” said 30-year-old Hala in Gemmayze.

“My issue is not smoking. My issue is with the government,” said Rana, 30. “Why is our parliament bothering with such silly things? There are so many other useful laws that need to be put into place and could be far more effective than this.”

 “We’re Lebanese, we’re not law abiding citizens,” said a Gemmayze pub owner. “If it’s actually implemented and followed, then it will be effective.”

But “before they implement a law like this, they should work on providing us with electricity 24 hours a day,” said Walid, a pizza shop owner in Achrafieh.

  • no one

    The argument that restaurants & pubs etc will lose money is a lost argument..it has been proven every where that such a ban has done no harm but increase takings, apart of at least having to contribute to a healthier society .In Lebanon ,many seem love to always swim against the tide & break the rules, and teenagers believes that smoking cigarette & Hubbly bubbly is a sign of grown up & in control of oneself , we must reduce public advertising for cigarets & restrict the age for allowing kids in smoking areas...would very much help if Lebanese can be a little Less selfish and consider others that don't want their health be affected by others bad habit.

    August 21, 2011

  • chady

    Solving the small problems is better than failing to solve the big problems!! But does the law apply to Nargile? Because restaurants like El Saniour don't exactly make their money from the great food you know...

    August 20, 2011

  • Doubtful M

    I agree with everyone who said that the government is bothering with silly issues instead of taking care of the bigger picture. And we still don't have electricity 24/7 :) But I hope people will follow rules for a change.

    August 20, 2011

  • MNM

    It is definitely not a wise legislation for Lebanon. Smoking is one of the positive distinction Lebanese night life still have! Yes, it is. Smokers are the biggest fan of Lebanese night clubs, pubs! Believe or not that the niche who spends the money… In restaurants, maybe it s better to have a smoking and non –smoking areas . Fair enough. BUT not in pubs and clubs! . I am not usual smoker but I DO smoke on my vacations in Lebanon …Lebanon is different and WE like it because it s different ! And that is why we enjoy being there!!

    August 19, 2011

  • Cedric Choukeir

    Yeah, so with all the problems going on, some Lebanese don't care about dying of lung Cancer... They are busy saving the world through their ideological pursuits. The Health of a society and its population is even more important than electricity itself!

    August 19, 2011

  • Georges Labaki

    People shouldn't be selfish and should realize how much non-smokers and even smokers suffer from smoking areas. Also, people need to think about these poor waiters and waitresses who have many respiratory diseases because of passive smoking that can even lead to Lung Cancer, one of the most difficult cancers to treat and heal. Also, for smokers they can go outside to have a cigarette and then come back to continue their dinner or have a drink. It's also a good opportunity to chat and meet other people :)

    August 19, 2011

  • George

    Pub and restaurent owners can avoid losing money and business if they all apply this law together. Restaurents and pubs should concentrate at making money by doing what pubs and restaurents do which is serve good food and drink to customers. Not by being a smokery. We have seen that in all civilised cities of the world restaurents and bars have done great despite the smoking bans. Night clubs and bars have created smoking areas for smoker to comgregate in. I dont think that anyone in London or NY will want to go back to smoking bars. Its appalling to see that restaurents in lebanon think that allowing smoking in there restaurents is good for business. Food and smoke, specially the cigar kind, are not good freinds. Smoking is polluting, its not a right its habit that should be stopped. Some of the Lebanese think that smoking and polutting is a right gien to them. Its an acheivement that the Parliament has joined taken a postive step to improve the lives of the Lebanese. It shoul

    August 18, 2011

  • free lebanese

    Don't you think they should put a ban on GANGS and WEAPONS first?? Our officials are busy with funny things, while the country drifts into a deep ditch and only God knows where we're heading...

    August 18, 2011