Jordan to Enforce Public Smoking Ban


Earlier this week, the Jordanian government announced plans to enforce a ban on smoking in public, citing a (previously unenforced) law passed by the country’s legislators in 2008. The law prohibits smoking in cafes, restaurants and other public venues including hospitals, schools, cinemas, libraries, museums, government buildings and on public transportation.

Pushes to enforce the ban starting in Dec. 2014 has touched a lot of nerves, as smoking is not only a significant part of Jordanian culture but also represents an important source of revenue for many small businesses in the food and beverage industry. At the same time, the popularity of vapes has risen, with the Best E-Juice being readily available to the masses.

Business owners in Jordan, a country known throughout the Middle East for its smooth shisha and prolific smoking, have expressed outrage at the plans. Cafes and restaurants often lure their crowds with the promise of shisha and their business models are centered on the assumption that customers will stay longer (and purchase more menu items) as long as the hot coals are kept a comin’.

“We are caught between a rock and a hard place whereby the government is trying to force a closure of our businesses,” said Mazen Alsaleh, who owns 14 coffee and shisha shops across Jordan.

These cafés and restaurants would be forced to stop serving shisha by the end of the 2014 or face the possibility of the government revoking their licenses.

It’s true that Jordan has a smoking problem.

Cigarettes are cheap, readily available at most kiosks and smoked prolifically among men at home and in public. According to Jordan’s Health Ministry, Jordanians spend an average of $1 billion on tobacco annually.

Approximately one half of Jordanian men smoke tobacco daily, along with one third of young Jordanian males, according to a 2013 study by the World Health Organization.

A representative from the Health Ministry defended the law by citing high rates of tobacco-related deaths in the country: “Our records show that many Jordanians die of cancer directly linked to smoking each year and more than $1 billion is spent annually on healthcare programs to treat smokers.”

Essentially, the money that Jordanians spend on tobacco is being recycled into programs for rehabilitation.

Critics of the law argue that while they would consider supporting a smoking ban for public venues such as hospitals, schools, government buildings, public transportation and museums, they do not believe the government has the right to infringe on private businesses’ freedom to allow smoking within the confines of their private venues.

“Why is the government infringing on our privacy?” asked 34-year-old social worker Haneen Ramahi.


WE SAID THIS: Who’s bright idea was it to pass a smoking ban in Jordan?