Mideast aims to break old habit with new anti-smoking laws

The Middle East, long associated with the ubiquitous waterpipe, is intensifying an anti-smoking drive as several Arab countries ban the practice in public places, even if success looks difficult.

From Beirut to Cairo, cigarettes are smoked everywhere, not just in cafes and restaurants, but in banks, ministries and even hospitals.

Egypt, the most populous nation in the Arab world and the heaviest smoker, announced on Thursday its intention to make the Mediterranean city of Alexandria the country's "first smoke-free city."

But the health ministry did not say how it planned to achieve this goal.

An existing law that prohibits smoking in public places is frequently flouted - notably by civil servants and police.

Nearly 40 percent of Egyptian men smoke, the vast majority of them throughout the day, according to a report published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in January.

On top of this, at least 70 percent of those questioned for the survey said they were subjected to passive smoking at home or in the workplace.

Jordan, Syria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are also looking to kick the habit, having all passed anti-smoking legislation in recent months.

In January, the Emirati president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, ordered a ban "on smoking in public transport and closed public places."

Within the UAE, Dubai took the lead, introducing smoking restrictions as far back as 2007.

The official WAM news agency has admitted the new law is not being implemented everywhere, but insisted that "state-owned buildings such as schools, universities, hospitals, theatres and gyms will have to conform to the total smoking ban in the very near future."

In Syria, where nearly 60 percent of men and 23 percent of women smoke, a ban on smoking in public places came into force in April, with fines of between 45 and 870 dollars (37-720 euros) and potentially up to two years in prison.

Apart from its toll on the nation's health, the Syrian authorities have good reason to reduce smoking, with the average smoker spending eight percent of his annual salary on tobacco, according to the state-owned tobacco entity.

In Egypt, home of the shisha, or waterpipe, the WHO survey found that smokers spend around six percent of their income on tobacco.

Jordan joined the campaign last month, announcing a smoking ban on May 25 which the health ministry says will be strictly applied - with inspectors carrying out surprise visits on ministries and public places.

But some Arab countries appear less willing to quit.

In Lebanon, where cigarettes are cheap - at around just one dollar (84 euro cents) a packet - an anti-smoking law is still under study. And while Beirut signed the WHO's framework convention on the fight to stop smoking, the document was never ratified.

A survey carried out by the UN health body in 2005 found that a startling 60 percent of Lebanese between the ages of 13 and 15 smoked cigarettes, waterpipes or cigars, the highest rate for that age in the entire region.

Some bars have introduced "non-smoker evenings," but with little enthusiasm or success to date.

In Iraq, meanwhile, there is no anti-smoking legislation at all and very few public places impose smoking restrictions of any kind, with one notable exception.

Visitors to the Ibn Bittar heart hospital in Baghdad have their cigarette packets confiscated on arrival, under the orders of Iraq's health ministry.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

    Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker