Is the smoking ban law good or bad for Lebanon?

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The smoking-ban law 174 goes into effect on September 3 and will affect all Lebanese restaurants, cafes, pubs and nightclubs. Now we all agree that smoking is bad, but that doesn’t give the government the right to deprive smokers from specialized places to go to.

Added to that, while I agree with Mustapha that the government can enforce the ban easily, I don’t see how Shisha cafes will be able to implement such a law, because it’s like asking night clubs or pubs to stop serving alcohol or playing music. By putting this law into effect, you are indirectly asking them to close down their business and fire their staff, which is easier said than done.

In an attempt to assess Law 174 and point out its flaws, figures and infographics have been prepared by The Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants in Lebanon and are part of a study conducted by Ernest & Young in Lebanon. You can check it out [Here].

Here’s also a brief interpretation of the E&Y report and a nice analysis of the smoking-ban law and its impact on the Lebanese economy posted by Mohammad Hijazi.

Issues with the current legislation
– 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. This impact is likely to be more accentuated given – the current political turmoil and tensions in the country.
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
– 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.

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.

Picture taken from BeirutSpring

23 thoughts on “Is the smoking ban law good or bad for Lebanon?

  1. Fadi Chammas

    I think the comments on Mohammad Hijazi’s post say it all.
    The claimed impact on the economy is ridiculous and incomplete.
    Public health > Money.

    Reply
  2. Youssef

    Najib,

    Are you seriously questioning the smoking ban in Lebanon?
    What does this sentence mean? “that doesn’t give the government the right to deprive smokers from specialized places to go to”
    and where are all these numbers coming from?
    Is E&Y seriously assuming that smokers will now stay home and not spend on food anymore? This is completely irrational.
    Furthermore, unequal implementation is not a reason to refute such a law.
    Plus there will be special permits for shisha places if this is your only concern.

    As a recent follower of your blog, I am deeply disappointed with your endorsement of this opinion

    It’s about time to go somewhere and enjoy your meal or drink without smelling the filth of other inconsiderate human beings

    Reply
    1. Najib

      Youssef,
      I am not a smoker and I am very annoyed when people smoke right next to me in a restaurant but that doesn’t mean I should ban them from smoking just like that. If people want to smoke, make a designated area where they can smoke for all I know.

      “Plus there will be special permits for shisha places if this is your only concern.”

      It’s not my only concern but this is a serious problem. Imagine you invest in a shisha place 1 million dollars then the gov comes and tells u sorry but u have to stop the arguile. That’s not how things work. Things need to be done gradually in order to limit the damages for everyone.

      I did not hear of a special permit to shisha places in the law, it doesnt mention it anywhere.

      Like I said, I hate smoking but they need to be a bit lenient and not just fuck up people’s investments.

      Reply
  3. Mark

    Public smoking should be banned period. Businesses won’t lose money. They would only lose money if they banned smoking in their place but their competitor didn’t. Since everyone will ban smoking business won’t get hurt.

    Are people going to stop clubbing because they can’t smoke? Obviously not.

    Reply
    1. Danielle

      I fully agree. Smokers certainly have non-smoking friends, and they’re still going to go out, socialize, and frequent restaurants, pubs, cafes, and other food/beverage outlets.

      We might even consider an extreme (and rather humorous) scenario, where the prohibition of smoking in public places induces many smokers to consider kicking the habit. We know that smokers who attempt to quit smoking tend to suppress their urges with food (their initial weight gain is unmistakable). If anything, they’ll be eating more at restaurants, and that’ll drive up the hospitality industry’s revenues.

      Reply
  4. Desmond Bey

    That’s just cherry-picking. The study didn’t mention the successful implementation of total bans in the UK, Ireland or the USA.
    Business would take a small initial hit at the beginning of the ban but that would pick up pretty fast. Drinking and smoking do go together but just because you’re not allowed to smoke indoors won’t stop a drinker-smoker nipping out for a quick one as often as needed.
    At some pubs in London, there are sometimes more people outside having a drink and a smoke than there are inside (and seemingly having more fun….).

    As an aside, why don’t they do a study to see by how much revenues would drop as a result of kidnappings, bombings, general lack of security and governmental imcompetence?

    Reply
  5. Gianni

    I think the prudent way should be the Canadian (Ontario) model. Ease the law in and allow the pubs and restaurants to adapt. Have closed off areas for smokers for let’s say three years; then total ban takes place. Currently there are certain malls in Canada whereas you cannot even smoke in the parking lot of the structure…

    Total ban at the end has helped people drop this addictive; costly and useless habits..BTW Najib if you think smokers have “rights”…The only right they have is smoking in their houses and not poisoning the public.

    Reply
    1. Najib

      Gianni,
      “Ease the law in and allow the pubs and restaurants to adapt. Have closed off areas for smokers for let’s say three years; then total ban takes place”

      Agree 100%. As for smokers having rights or not, I think they should be allowed to smoke in designated places if they like to.

      Reply
      1. Gianni

        Najib we agree to disagree on smokers’ rights. However; take it from me; that in Canada we all went through this brouhaha of lost revenues etc. etc…It’s been years and the pubs and restos are flourishing with no “withdrawal symptoms”..

        Lebexile quit smoking and you’ll be ahead financially and health wise. Laws are made and they have to be followed. If you break it you pay the consequence. It has been proven over and over again the immense health cost that tobacco users cost the country. You are a disappearing diehard. Good luck in your quest for a non addictive alternative…

        Reply
        1. Najib

          Gianni,
          There’s one thing that separates us from Canada and European countries, which is the arguile or shisha or whatever they call it.

          If you noticed, I mentioned the problem is in the shisha cafes and not the pubs and it wont be as simple as banning smoke in a pub because people go to pubs to drink/smoke and socialize while they go to smoke a shisha at a cafe.

          Things need to be done gradually and awareness must be raised before cutting off the whole thing. Keep in mind as well that Arab tourists come here to go out and smoke shisha. What are you gonna do about that? ask them to smoke in the hotel room?

          Reply
  6. LebExile

    sorry Gianni, smokers have the right to smoke any place they choose, be it on the street, at the bus terminal or even at the shopping mall entrance. Yes you are right, smokers dont have the right to pollute the air non smokers breath. But following your logic, then the government should build unground roads so that me as a non driver, wont have to breath in the fumes all the cars and trucks release on the roads – or listen to the moise construction crews make building a block of apartments or or or…

    I think the governemts all around the world are using smoking to raise revenue – especially here in australia – my pack of dunhills now cost $20 / pack.

    I think it’s upto the individual establishments to set their own smoking policy – not the governemtns, If people want to go to a non smoking restaurant,then, there will surely be such a restaurant. and if another person wants to go to a smoking allowed restaurant, then, one should be available for him also.

    Why is it ok to discriminate against smokers?

    The only reason I hear is that it’s unhealthy and causes lots of smoking related illnesses. If this is the case, why not ban smokeing altogether, and make smoking illegal. Subsadise nicotine replacement thearopies and help people quit smoking.

    They will never to this, when under the current system, the governmen earns billions in taxes on the smokes, and the adverse health effects means that smokers that get ill die younger, and so, need less medical treatment in old age.

    Reply
  7. roger

    people people! hello and allow me if you please.. you’ve all got points, but they’re all missing the mark. the debate for or against the smoking ban, total or partial, gradual or immediate, is very old and it is a closed subject.

    the law had been enacted because we live in a democracy, right? right?? the majority of the Lebanese voters want the ban, just like the majority of voters all over the world. this is how democracy functions, don’t blame the government. blame the government only when it does not apply the will of the majority. you don’t like the law, either break it and suffer the consequences or live with it while trying to win a majority to repeal the law.

    I’ll hope at least that the government will apply the law for at least a few months.. that way i can perhaps one day in the distant future sit with my son and tell him the story about how Lebanon, his country of origin, in the year 2012, before the dark days, did indeed do some good for its people.. goodnight

    Reply
  8. Rob

    first: lebanese ALWAYS make stupid excuses NOT to abide a law ANY law
    second: arguile cafes should have thought abt this BEFORE opening them or at least they should have dont it open space lebanese yet again dont think abt the future
    third: yes smokers have “rights” to die alone and not bother us from not going to bars or choke to death or smell like an ashtray or shit!
    fourth: this ban wont effect on the economy bel 3akes ,smokers go eat some and smoke most of the time (they will be too busy smoking and not eating)for an hour or hour and a half, where as without smoking ppl will spend less time this means more people at that period of time lets say 1 and a half hour or so

    Reply
  9. Rachel

    How about they start taking action towards the much deeper problems Lebanon is facing these days? What about kidnapping? Robbery? All the killing and the fighting we are currently facing? Is seriously the smoking law that is pissing off all the non-smokers? It sure is, since it directly affects them. But when another person is killed, who cares, we don’t know this person.
    Honestly, I think Lebanon has a long long way to go. And I strongly believe the government is not knowing how to set the priorities straight. Whether we want it or not, enforcing the smoking ban WILL affect the economy and revenues of all the bars, clubs, cafes, and nightclubs. Smokers DO have the right to smoke anywhere they choose as long as their favorite cigarette brand is still being sold. If you wanna do something, either do it right or don’t do it at all. Yes, they could use some space in order do design smoking rooms, be it in cafes, pubs bars or especially nightclubs, for those who want to enjoy their time without bothering the non-smokers.
    How about they start enforcing the seatbelt law? I believe it to be more important than the smoking ban, since a person could die within seconds if involved in an accident. Think about this people. Lebanon is just doing it the wrong way..

    Reply
  10. Karine

    Restaurants and shisha cafes had one year to think of a solution. The ban didn’t fall on their head by magic or surprise. Let’s stop nagging in Lebanon and move this country forward step by step. Although I could understand that the ban comes at a time where basic needs lack (electricity, water, security issues, etc) but we can’t wait forever to change everything.

    Reply
  11. Ali Sleeq

    The only reason there is a controversy is because as a percentage of smokers, Lebanese are among the highest in the world (myself included).

    And of course, how’s the “jagal” gonna look in da club if he can’t smoke a cig and look cool with his open shirt? aha… there we go. this is what it’s all about… not public health.

    Reply

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