The Weekly Leaks: Smoking At Night Clubs To Be Banned… Very Soon

Everyone smokes. That is basically an overview of a typical Lebanese nightclub, restaurant and pub. Young and old, male and female, rich or poor, the one thing we notice is the newest Kent or Dunhill cigarette pack on the table. With a BB of course, but let’s leave that for another post later on =P

There has been a lot of talk about a law being passed that will ban indoor smoking. The advocates of this law are many, but it seems the opposing opinion is just as common. The bottom line is that a sizable portion of the Lebanese population are heavy smokers.

The arguments are both convincing, but at the end of the day, a smoker’s leisure should never endanger a non-smoker’s health. What you do with your own health is your business, but puffing smoke with non-smokers around, is unacceptable.

I myself am not a smoker, but I will admit I have an arguileh (shisha) every few months. I do not appreciate the smoke of other people when in a restaurant, messes up my olfactory perception, making my food taste like tar. The cigarettes in nightclubs are a nuisance too. When you walk in, you’re overwhelmed with the smog, when you go out, you suck in as much fresh air as you can, relieving your shortness of breath. That’s not counting the watery eyes and countless burns by the drunkard smoker trying to dance, waving his/her cigarette and scarring our hands.

If you do not understand the many several thousand reasons smoking kills, I advise you to refer to Google. We shan’t discuss the scientific aspect, but one thing I advise you to look into (other than the 11,000+ carcinogenic chemicals in a cigarette) is the radioactive element Polonium, present in many cigarettes.

Here are some numbers from the American University of Beirut’s Tobacco Control Research Group recent study:

  • The average Lebanese adult smokes 2979 cigarettes per capita
  • 12.4 packs per adult smoker in Lebanon, compared with 3.7 in France, 3.5 in Jordan and 1.7 in Singapore
  • 53% of the Lebanese population smokes cigarettes or water pipes
  • 64.5% of boys and 54.6% of girls under the age of 18 smoke water pipes or cigarettes
  • The cost of smoking (direct and indirect, minus the second-hand smoke effects) was estimated at $326.7 million USD

So, we see we do have a serious, serious problem.

Anyway, getting to the leak, got in touch with a Lebanese Member of Parliament, and a former Minister to get the scoop on the much-anticipated law. The draft, written up back in 2004 based on a World Health Organization recommendation, effectively bans indoor smoking in public places and institutions. Unfortunately, the political gridlock and disregard for daily life issues by the successive parliaments and governments, has left the draft law in limbo.

On March 5th though, the Lebanese Parliament’s Administration & Justice Committee endorsed the draft law to reduce smoking in Lebanon and approved the ban of smoking in public places. The draft law defined a public place as all indoor and outdoor public areas, as well as all areas of social use, including public transportation.

This sounds unimpressive, but the fact that it is out of the parliamentary committee is in fact a huge leap. The next step now is presenting the draft to the parliament’s General Assembly. Unfortunately, with no functional cabinet, the Lebanese GA cannot convene.

Our source has confirmed to us that after the new cabinet is formed, he will personally motion to ratify this law, and has assured us the necessary majority has been guaranteed. In other words, the law that many of us dismissed as inapplicable, and which Lebanese lawmakers themselves ridiculed, is now virtually inevitable and will definitely include nightlife venues.

This of course is good news for anti-smoking activists, and brings hope after the 7-year delays and obstacles. It comes very late though, at a time when several European nations, such as Italy, dispose of cigarette butts as radioactive waste, while in Lebanon, you can buy 20-cigarette packs for less than a dollar.

So, in a matter of days or weeks (hopefully) the smoking ban will be a reality, and cigarettes in clubs, restaurants and pubs will be illegal. This of course is a major step, and the fallout is expected to be enormous. As a nightlife organization, we are thrilled that Lebanese nightlife will raise the bar and meet the international health and safety standards of the business. However, we understand many of our readers, and even our team, feel uneasy about this law, which has now become a very near reality.

We would like to know more about your thoughts about this issue, and how it will affect your clubbing/pubbing. I for one, support this MP and wish him the best of luck and look forward to the law’s ratification in the very near future.

Source of statistics: Lebanon This Week Bulletin, Byblos Bank