There is talk, once again, of an all-out smoking ban throughout the Kingdom’s public places. Rest assured smokers, i.e. the overwhelming majority of you, this is yet another policy that will never see the light of day. The Healthy Ministry is hoping places “voluntarily” remove smoking from their facilities, and if they don’t, which they won’t, the ministry will declare them public places, imposing ministry laws and regulations on them.
According to the law, this includes hospitals, health care centers, schools, cinemas, theatres, libraries, museums, public and nongovernmental buildings, public transport vehicles, airports, closed playgrounds, lecture halls and any other location to be determined by the health minister.
The law also stipulates that any person who is caught smoking at a public place is subject to a penalty of imprisonment ranging from one week to one month or a JD15-JD25 fine. The same penalties apply to those who sell cigarettes to underage youths.
Why won’t such a ban work? Well continued and sustained enforcement has always been at the heart of our policy problems and in this area of all things, enforcement will as impotent as Bill Clinton without his viagra.
Nearly everyone in Jordan smokes.
If you walk into a hospital at any day and time of the week, you’ll see the doctors smoking, the patients smoking and the security guards smoking, typically underneath a no-smoking sign.
Most kids smoke. Most kids can buy cigarettes at any supermarket.
Tobacco farmers grow and sell it unregulated, often times in open fields right in the middle of Amman.
I think I’ve seen people on local TV that smoke in TV shows if I’m not mistaken. It’s like America in the 1950’s.
This is to say nothing of argeelah, which is a culturally acceptable consumption of tobacco.
So what’s the solution? Because banning it in public places is something that will never be enforced and everyone knows it. There’s even a proven track record for that conclusion.
Well, a few years back the government decided to employ scare tactics by putting scary pictures of black lungs and hearts on all the packages. I don’t think that’s worked very well.
Then there was the idea of putting these stickers on storefronts that said something like “this place does not sell to underage kids”. But I believe that was only in Aqaba. And I highly doubt that’s worked.
Yes. We have great ideas and policies and even laws, but little to no enforcement, which I suppose is a self-defeating pursuit. They usually originate from someone suggesting that something needs to be done about smoking in Jordan. Maybe it’s a suggestion from the World Bank or the World Health Organization, demonstrating a clear link between a healthy workforce and a productive workforce. And so the suggestion goes down the pipeline and various employees and taskforces are assembled and it’s worked on for months and paraded around in the local media and then…
Although Jordan ranks 10th in the world in terms of laws that prohibit smoking in public places, a recent study revealed that one-third of Jordanians are smokers.
Health Ministry figures indicate that over 30 per cent of school students smoke tobacco.
So what’s the solution?
Increase taxes on cigarettes?
It may not be such a bad idea if they were made so expensive people would just stop affording them, especially in these inflationary times. The government could probably pay down the debt with all the revenue generated there. Ah, but then again, most people in government are smokers so expensive cigarettes won’t float.
A more satirical – I mean simpler, solution would be to ween people off cigarettes by giving them something new. Perhaps legalizing marijuana isn’t such a bad idea. It’s already fairly widespread in Jordan so it might as well be regulated. It’s probably more expensive so people would probably consume less of it. It’s also less addictive. We’d save a lot of money from all that futile drug enforcement. And with more cigarette-related deaths, public health might even improve. The workforce is already fairly drug-induced anyways, with most employees unable to function without a 15-minute cigarette break every hour. And we’d probably have a more innovative and creative workforce come to think of it.
And I’m sure that in one of those drug-induced hazes, years from now, someone will come up with a better idea on how to reduce smoking in Jordan.