Image 1 of 8: Jordan: The jury’s still out... Cigarette smoke is like oxygen for Jordanians. Who can handle Amman’s stressful traffic without lighting up? A smoking ban last year (2103) targeted not only cigarettes but also Jordanian’s beloved sheesha. Will the Hashemite Kingdom actually start enforcing this smoking ban or are they just blowing smoke?
Image 1 of 8: Lebanon's lip-service to smoke ban: Lebanon's 2012 decision to outlaw tobacco was met with mixed reactions from smoking fanatics (aka the general public!), with some wondering if the Marlboro country should focus on more pressing issues like terrorism or an ever- elusive cabinet. What harm a Viceroy, asked the addicted old-guard?
Image 1 of 8: Dubai: Not beating about the bush but not making it black and white either, the UAE has chosen perhaps the most complex smoking ban to discourage their citizens from lighting up. According to the law, smokers should be given a 20 square foot radius and smoking is not allowed in restaurants less than 1,000 square feet in size. Decide, Dubai.
Image 1 of 8: Kuwait: The tiny oil kingdom banned smoking of cigarettes and sheesha in all public places in 2013, but WHO is really following this law?
Image 1 of 8: Qatar: All talk, but still smoke: Over 200,000 people light up in Qatar, while there is talk of tightening up current anti-smoking laws. In 2012, Qatar added graphic images of damaged jaws and lungs to tobacco packets, but that offended smoker sensibilities and companies are campaigning to remove the labels.
Image 1 of 8: Bahrain: The smoking ban in Bahrain certainly has some wacky aspects to it. Smokers are prohibited from puffing around children and in their own cars! If Bahranis disobey they risk three months jail time, but to many the risk may be worth the nicotine fix.
Image 1 of 8: Saudi Arabia: A fatwa fag? Saudi’s slow-starting ban is no shocker - religious leaders say Islam promotes taking care of the body and health. But studies suggest 6 million Saudis spend their riyals on tobacco. Is the Quran stronger than the urge to puff Camels? Has the ban been executed or is execution still just a Friday thing.
Image 1 of 8: Egypt: Even Egypt, the biggest Arab consumer of cigarette products, is attempting a smoking ban. Egyptians smoke roughly 19 billion cigarettes a year, but a few major cities in Egypt, such as Alexandria and Cairo, have pledged to go smoke free. Only time will tell if Sisi’s new government can pry tobacco from the Arab Street’s hands.
The Middle East is a safe haven for smokers. Whether that be in taxis, supermarkets or even the doctor’s office - yep, no smokescreen there, we ain’t kidding you! So implementing a ban might set off a few angry smoke detectors in the form of grumpy puffers!
Shisha and smoking have become an important part of Arab culture. Those opposed to the ban insist that businesses will be negatively-affected, while the pro-ban (healthy, party poopers) brigade want some fresh air without those nasty “cancer sticks” in their faces all the time.
What seems like a sensible way to curb passive smoking has worked out well in European countries, but will it ever happen in the Middle East or is it just a smoky fantasy? A progress report of the smoking ban and how much traction it has had in the region follows in honor of WHO's World No Tobacco Day.
Fun Fact: Believe it or not, Syria pioneered the smoking ban in the region as early as 2010 before the country went up in smoke.