Smoke Ban in Lebanon.. A Blessing or a Curse??

Tobacco control legislation will come into effect in Lebanon on September 3rd, 2012. The Lebanese  Parliament endorsed a law banning smoking in all enclosed public places, including restaurants, bars, cafes and offices.

The law presented for vote would see owners of businesses fined if they fail to prevent their costumers from smoking, and will also fine individuals who violate the ban. Furthermore the new tobacco law considers advertising and promotion smoking products illegal, including billboards, magazine advertisements and tobacco company sponsorship of events and concerts. The bill also calls for a pictorial warning, similar to Europe, of the dangers of smoking covering 40 percent of each pack.

While the Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafés, Night-Clubs &Pastries in Lebanon is in  favor of the move from a health perspective, the current law is incomplete as it sets the stage for  poor implementation, corruption and a non-negligible negative effect on the country’s tourism and  hospitality sectors. As a result, the syndicate saw a room for improvement in the current tobacco control legislation, so as to ensure its feasible implementation and efficacy.

But is the new law a health blessing?? Or is it an economic curse?

Issues with the current legislation according to the Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafés, Night-Clubs &Pastries in Lebanon

– The current Lebanese legislation is drastically restrictive in comparison to effectively implemented smoking bans in developed and progressive nations such as Germany and France, as well as in comparison with effective regional models such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

– The greater flexibility of the legislation in the above countries correlates with their successful implementation.

– The severity of the Lebanese legislation renders the law unrealistic to implement in full. This critical flaw is execrated by the fact that Lebanon ranks low in terms of law abidance.

– The current legislation opens the door for increased corruption at the local level, due to selective implementation.

– In order for a law to be effective, it must be fair and equally implementable. An Ernst & Young study on the issue has found that the current legislation will be unequally implementable, particularly in areas and regions where the state lacks authority.

– This is detrimental not only from a legal standpoint, but also in terms of the intended health benefits which should benefit the entire population equally. The current legislation is set to have a significant negative impact on the Lebanese economy, namely at the level of revenues, unemployment, tourism spending and tax collection.

– The Lebanese government lacks the ability to ensure successful and equal implementation. As a result, the Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafés, Night-Clubs &Pastries in Lebanon constitutes a valuable partner to help and cooperate. However, the syndicate favors a law it deems complete, implementable, beneficial and economically viable.

Recommended legal amendments by the Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafés, Night-Clubs &Pastries in Lebanon
– Minor amendments to just 2% of the current legislation will increase its successful implementation.

– This will increase compatibility with the Lebanese tourism industry and put the legislation on par with some of the most effective anti-smoking legislation executed internationally.

– The recommended amendments restrict smoking in all closed public spaces, work areas and public transport. The syndicate also recommends enforcing this restriction on all restaurants, pastry shops, sandwich outlets and other establishments where food accounts for the main business.

– However, the syndicate is hoping to regulate these restrictions so as to exempt establishments that may be labeled as restaurants but whose predominant business is not food but instead alcoholic beverages and entertainment, such as shisha cafes, clubs, bars and pubs.

– This exemption however would not exempt the above entities from fulfilling technical requirements, such as:

  • Installing proper cooling and ventilation systems.
  • Restricting entry to minors under 18.
  • Placing clear signage outside establishments cautioning that smoking is permissible on premise.

These proposed amendments would put Lebanese legislature on par with effectively implemented and progressive legislation internationally, such as in Germany and Qatar.
With proper regulation, the law can also be applied uniformly so as to safeguard the intended health benefits in areas with strict state control as well as those outside of it.

Do you think the smoke ban can be implemented? Is it a good thing? Or will it have its negative implications on the economy in general??

Key facts

-Lebanese restaurants, cafes, pubs and nightclubs generate $735 million in revenues per year.

-The current legislation will generate a drop of roughly $282 million in revenues, representing 7.1% of GDP in the hospitality sector and a significant blow to the Lebanese economy as a whole.

-It will also affect the Lebanese restaurants, cafes, pubs and nightclubs revenue by 25% overall with cafes seeing the biggest slump in revenues.

-The current legislation is also expected to affect tourism spending by $46 million and lead to a loss of about 2600 full-time jobs.

-To top it all, according to commissioned survey studies the public has poor faith in the current legislation with approximately 71% of surveyed believing the law will be poorly implemented and 82% of them believing it will be an opportunity for more corruption.