How Will One Get Around the Smoking Ban?
By: Rami Zurayk
Published Sunday, September 9, 2012
Protests against the smoking ban in closed public places, especially in cafes and restaurants, seem to have been fruitless.
Some cafe and restaurant owners took to the street and, for a short while, caused a traffic jam. That was all there was to it.
This was despite coverage by “responsible” media outlets, who did their best to stoke the protests.
Of course, they did so in an effort to ensure freedom of opinion and the right of citizens to know what is going on in their country.
It is interesting that it was these very same channels who were “professional” and “responsible” when it came to covering the issue of the kidnapped Lebanese pilgrims in Syria.
This is, however, where the similarity ends.
This time their adventurous and courageous camera lenses did not cover any exciting scenes, such as burning tyres and the blocking of the airport road.
No military wing mobilized to kidnap members of the civil society organizations who were behind the smoking ban.
With this singular implementation of a new law, Lebanon has entered the club of countries, including Europe’s tourist centers, which ban smoking in closed public areas.
In Europe, restaurant and cafe customers have learned to live with this law. You see them standing outside restaurants smoking their cigarettes in the rain and the freezing cold.
The cigarette problem can be solved this way in Lebanon too, but what about the hookah (water pipe) which has become part and parcel of Arab culture despite its Persian roots?
Does the government have the right to stop those who enjoy making bubbles in a bottle, listening to the sound they make, and savoring the taste in a glass-fronted cafe, whose titillating mixture of privacy and exposure would have kept Freud busy for years.
How will the creative Lebanese people deal with this new reality? Will we witness a new legal innovation in the same vein as the “Murr extra floor”? [A twist in the law, introduced by ex-minister Michel Murr, which allowed people to add a floor to their buildings against regulations.]
There are several ideas and designs being discussed by hookah smokers on the internet. But they are still in the design stage. So, stay tuned and we will bring you the latest news on this hot topic.
Rami Zurayk is Al-Akhbar's environment columnist and author of the blog Land and People.
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar's editorial policy.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.