Syria and new no smoking laws
While in the West we have long been used to restrictions as to where one can smoke and the health effects of passive smoke, this has not been the case in many other parts of the world. Despite being reformed ourselves, one expects to be exposed to smoke when travelling in Asia Africa and the Middle East. Well it seems this could be about to change with Syria enacting bans on smoking in public places in early 2010. President Bashar al-Assad will outlaw smoking in public places, including restaurants and bars, hospitals, sports halls and cinemas. The law covers cigarettes and cigars, as well as traditional ‘shisha’ water pipes. Having seen how hard this sort of legislation was to enforce in Paris, we can’t wait to see how this goes down in Damascus.
The Syrian government has already passed several laws regulating the tobacco industry and smoking. A 1996 decree banned tobacco advertising and in 2006 Syria banned smoking in government offices and public transport. The new law envisages a 2,000 SYP ($44) fine on those who break it.
Governmental and voluntary initiatives to raise awareness of the health risks of smoking have increased this year, say activists. “Smoking awareness days” have been held at private educational institutes such as Kalamoon University near Damascus, which has also introduced a ban on smoking in the university campus.
However, the effectiveness of the tougher legal framework is in doubt. Whilst people do not smoke in buses, it is common to see the current laws against smoking flouted in taxis and some government offices, and fines are rarely imposed, they say.
The stricter law will be even harder to enforce, say Syrian restaurant and bar owners, who have expressed dismay at the ban. Ahmad Kozoroch, the owner of Rawda, a famous coffee shop close to the Syrian parliament, said he would resist the ban in his establishment, pointing to the fact that most of his profit comes from water pipes.
“The law will hurt my business,” said Kozoroch. “I am not sure people will stop smoking. Instead they are likely to pay bribes to official inspectors to avoid the fines