I am free from your smoke!

It may come as a surprise to you that Lebanon implemented the indoor-smoking ban only on September 3rd, 2012. This may seem a little too late, and well, it is. Smoking has become a Lebanese trait. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Lebanon has the highest rate of school children smokers in the Middle East.

This is not a shock, as a Lebanese. Throughout my 20 years of life, I have always been surrounded by smokers. Whether it’s in relatives’ cars, homes or clothes, the smell of tobacco has become a background smell for me.

I cannot realistically expect to abolish smoking, which would be ideal since it harms one’s health, but Lebanon made a step forward (as cliché as it sounds). On September 3rd, not so long ago, law 174 officially made all Lebanese closed public spaces smoke-free.

While this seemed like a relief for many, mainly nonsmokers, many objected. According to Pierre Ashkar, the head of the Hotel Owners’ Association, “[a]round 1,000 cafes in Lebanon are specialized in nargileh and if they stop working, they will have to let 10,000 employees go.” This is a widespread concern in a society where the water-pipe (known as narguile or hookah) has been a staple in the café scene. People who shared this attitude took to the streets after the implementation of the ban and demanded for modifications. Some demand that the ban excludes the entertainment venues such as nightclubs, pubs and narguile cafes, since those who go there are aware of the fact that they will either smoke or second-hand smoke.

Other people protested with posters expressing their disapproval of the Lebanese government’s priority in making laws. They pointed out security and economic issues which need to be tackled, as well as the electricity and water crises we are living through in Lebanon.

Yes, as a Lebanese citizen I do agree that with them. We do have more important problems to resolve, issues like the: electricity shortage, water shortage, lack of enforcement of traffic laws, decreasing security, outdated laws, deteriorating infrastructure, etc. These are all issues we struggle with every day, and they are issues which need to be focused on soon. However, the indoor-smoking ban is indeed a positive step in the progress of Lebanon. Personally, I see it as a step in changing the Lebanese mentality. Before the ban, as a nonsmoker, I felt like if the smoke bothered me, I had to move away instead of having the smoker turn off the cigarette. Now, at least, I can finally enjoy a meal in a restaurant without incorporating the smell of tobacco into the taste of the flavors I am chewing. We can now at least hope that the smokers’ rate decreases, at least in its growth.

Whenever I see a young teen smoking, I blame us as Lebanese for accepting tobacco into our culture. We not only welcomed it, but it is now something so Lebanese that an indoor-smoking ban became a source of controversy amongst us.


Pierre Ashkar’s statement: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Local-News/2012/Sep-03/186518-smoking-ban-goes-into-effect-in-lebanon.ashx#axzz2B0Bti4We


14 thoughts on “I am free from your smoke!

  1. I agree, it is a good step forward for Lebanon to implement the indoor-smoking ban. It is very selfish of some smokers who are against the ban of smoking in public places to jeopardize the health of others when they can simply smoke outside on the street!

  2. Even if there are still issues with the smoking ban this law is definitely a step forward for Lebanon. Also, as a non-smoker I can sympathize with being at a restaurant or where ever and having to move to get away from the smell of cigarettes. When Ohio enacted the same law I was extremely grateful it is not fair that people who don’t smoke are still affected by peoples bad habit. If anything this may help decrease the number of smokers in Lebanon, which would be a good thing.

    1. I agree, Shelby. It is definitely a big step forward for us Lebanese! However, there is an underlying attitude and culture which resists this change forward. Smoking is a normal thing here. As you walk around the streets, it is normal (sadly) to see 13 year old boys smoking. This is something that needs time to be fixed. The Lebanese mentality has distorted the reality of smoking. I hope what you’re saying is true, I hope the number of Lebanese smokers decreases, but I highly doubt it!

  3. This information came as somewhat of a shock to me. I now take for granted the ability to walk into a restaurant or any business for that matter and not be forced into a cloud of smoke that taints my clothes in a smell I didn’t choose to be around. I think it sounds like a great step forward for Lebanon; however it was interesting to see that many have such a problem with it. Did the law ban all indoor smoking or were there some compromises, such as smoking and non-smoking sections? I think that may be a good solution to the controversy found over this issue in places such as entertainment venues. It is unfortunate that this is such a trend in the nation, but it’s great news to know that those who choose not to smoke are no longer not acknowledged.

    1. The law banned all indoor smoking. However, cafes and restaurants have gained permits for smoking sections. This may be the obvious solution abroad, but we didn’t have that prior to the ban. The non-smoking and smoking areas in closed areas were not separated by physical barriers, they were just literally areas.

  4. The more I learn about Lebanon, the more I think of Italy. 😀 I remember teasing David about acting European to me and it was mostly the way he held his cigarette. As you described in Lebanon, Europeans seem to smoke a lot and everywhere, even where it says “no smoking”. I even had a foreign exchange student who was 14 from Spain and she was a heavy smoker. She didn’t understand why it was so taboo in the U.S. In many places I visited, smoking was prohibited,but that didn’t make a difference. It was not enforced and so the ban was ignored. Do you think that the ban will be enforce in Lebanon?

    1. Don’t let too many Lebanese men hear your comparison, they’ll be flattered to be compared to Italians! But, yes, I agree with you. Smoking has transcended countries’ borders and has become a regional cultural practice. Your friend’s situation can be applied here in Lebanon. You can easily say Lebanese do not understand why smoking should be banned indoor. Smoking has been so deeply weaved in the Lebanese culture that smoke is just a background smell to us.
      So far, the ban has been enforced. It’s actually created funny assemblies outside restaurants and pubs. Two weeks ago, we were walking on Hamra street and you could see groups of people outside restaurants. At a first glance, you’d think they were in line waiting for places, but then you’d realize that they were out smoking.

  5. I agree with your stance on this issue. I think that you as a non-smoker should not have to leave the scene in order to be free from the harmful side effects that come along with smoke. I also think that the Lebanese people could look at what effect bans in the US have had on industry’s that used to thrive on the allowance of smoking. I know it is only a little issue compared to many things that are facing Lebanon right now, but the fact that is act was passed shows the progress the country is making in the right direction.

    1. Definitely. There are so many issues of greater severity that need to be tackled by our government, but this doesn’t mean we should disregard the need to ban indoor smoking. Personally, I believe that the people who opposed the ban are smokers and owners of venues which benefited from indoor smoking, such as hookah cafes. Lebanon is definitely on the right track, I just hope it enforces the ban on the long run as well.

  6. I’m glad to hear that Lebanon has implemented a ban on indoor-smoking. It is nice to see a law reformation in which many people benefitted from. Individuals shouldn’t have to deal with a deathly habit in public if they don’t have to. Youth smoking is a big problem in the region and I noticed when I viewed middle schoolers smoking nargileh (hookah) in the middle of the street. It is a shame that smoking is so common amongst the youth and hopefully this ban will help prevent the next generation from smoking as much.

    1. Youth smoking is a big problem over here, as you said. Smokers start smoking for different reasons, as in any other country. But here, I feel the youth is encouraged even more by the surrounding society. Everywhere you go, you see smokers. This has made it normal. What we’re in need of are effective awareness campaigns about smoking and its effects. Smokers do know the consequences of smoking, but as you said, we should work on the next generations if we can’t influence the current smokers.

  7. I think this was a huge step for Lebanon. It is one my home state made a few years ago and I think it helped a lot with the area. We no longer have to worry about asking for a non-smoking section or worry about the smell of smoke while we are eating or staying in a hotel. While there are many other more important issues going on in Lebanon this will help improve everyone’s health. With more restrictions it will cause people to smoke less and maybe prevent many youth from starting to smoke.

    1. As a non-smoker, I share the same relief! The tables have turned, and smokers now have to move away from us to smoke their deathly cigarettes.

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