Getting Serious About A Smoking Ban In Jordan

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.

20 thoughts on “Getting Serious About A Smoking Ban In Jordan

  1. LOL Nas, exchange tobacco for marijuana. At least people would chill and not be so touchy.

    Hubby is taking a class in social marketing, and the two principles he has to write about are either making a behaviour too costly to continue or increasing the benefits of ceasing the behaviour.
    Like higher taxes as you mentioned. I would think showing video clips of people dying of lung cancer would help. Smoking just exacerbates the other major health issues of Jordanians, heart disease and diabetes.

  2. Well, you never know… I remember saying that it would never happen in the province of Quebec, as the Quebecois used to smoke in church and Quebec was also known as Canada’s smoking room. But since 2006 it has been banned in public places…
    I also never thought that such a ban would ever happen anywhere in former Yugoslavia…I still remember people smoking on buses there and much like here, people in the 90s were still smoking in hospitals and just about everywhere. The ban has been in effect in Slovenia for one year now, although many people said it would never happen. A few bar owners worked their way around the law, by registering a room of their establishment as their residence. So basically you order a coffee at the bar and take it to the room, so you can “go visit the owner” and have a smoke….
    So when’s Amman’s “Marijuana March” planned? LOL….

  3. marijuana 😀 😀 😀

    i LOVE the idea, you think it could possibly treat our other major problem: make people smile and stop complaining? 😀

    and I agree with Hareega so very much, smokers dont kill themselves only as you all know, they also drain OUR money on health services they use and consume because of their smoking. so i think its only fair that they are made to pay 10 jds, to cover OUR health care needs too, why should our tax money cover their health problems, which they CHOSE to have?

    So here is what i suggest:

    1. Increasing prices insanely. and use the money for either public health care or support universities or even fuel prices or il mo2assasih il istihlakiyyih and such.

    2. make a law to be advertised from now and takes effects 5 years from now: any health issue caused by smoking will not be covered by goverment insurance and will not be mad3oom by the goverment in public hospitals, you pay serious money to treat your dear self that you chose to kill for the heck of it.

    3. actually enforce the law, just as you said nas, this is the one problem, but if they can create ‘environmental police’ (did you know we have such a thing?!) to protect trees, they might as well make dedicated police to protect peoples health and money. too much to ask for?

    or just wait for me to be a president. i sure will ban importing smoking min a9loh. then come and live in my country.

  4. I think the best thing to do is raising the prices because at least people will cut down the number of cigarettes they smoke but unfortunately our government policies aren’t running in parallel with future planning because as if you do a simple calculation ig you take these details which are that Nearly 90 percent of people who develop lung cancer are smokers, yet only about 10 percent of lifetime smokers will develop the disease so 30% of Jordanians is around 1.5 million 10% of that would be 150,000 people who are going to develop lung cancer and mean cost per patient is around 18000 jd’s the total cost would be 2.7 billion jd’s over the next period and that is if there isn’t going to be any news smokers!!!!!!
    tell that to our retarded government officials!!

  5. As you said, enforcement is the issue. Here’s my plan… First, double the fine on government employees and policemen who violate the law. Second, have a specific arm of the police force that goes out and issue tickets. Third, place some hard-headed American weener in charge of this division. Ensure that he (or she) has no ties to any group, tribe, clan, or other organization. Make their job dependent on NOT taking back tickets due to the wasta of anyone involved. Finally, have the King go on TV and notify everyone that this is HIS initiative and that the hard-headed American reports only to him. Any exceptions or invaidation of tickets must go directly to the King and the person who bring one to him will be required to pay JD50 for his time!

    I think that would take care of the problem.

  6. By the way, marijuana is just as bad on your lungs as cigarettes…not to mention argeelah.

    Sorry to undermine your suggestion.

  7. Well, If you look at it from an economic perspective I think that our government would rather have their money now-in the form of tax which they already charge on the cigarettes-than save it in the form of less health care. They also have to compute the point at where the tax increase will actually reduce their revenue because of the less consumption. Now, from a political perspective, I don’t think it is the right time to do so.

    Now the question: How will they collect the fines? Will there be a court? who will pay the costs? If our prisons are already crowded, does it make any sense to have more inmates who smoked in public? It just doesn’t make sense. They can enforce the law on a limited number of people and then make it public-that some people actually were imprisoned and fined for breaking the ban.

  8. Jordanians are addicted to smoking so enforcing some laws or regulations will not help them. In the Middle East there is always the black market or nepotism to break or find a way out for the toughest law. My solution is to educate the young generation in school about the harm of smoking. My Arab friends’ children, who were born in the US, refuse to ride with their parents in the car if dad or mom does not wear the seat belt. Kids know better than their parents the consequences of not wearing a seat belt. I think the same thing can be applied to smoking behavior. Educate the young generation about the danger of smoking and we will have a healthy fresh air to breath in Jordan in no more than 15 years.

  9. @khalid

    Haha.. exactly my thought: “make people smile and stop complaining”

    @jaraad

    Unfortunately, our culture considers it rude not to listen to your parents, and you will probably be reprimanded for “throwing a tantrum” or something of that sort.

    It seems to me that the biggest challenge facing our country is our disregard for the rule of the law. Until laws are respected to the letter (it could be a pain, I know) we won’t have the ability to move anything forward.

  10. The Europeans have always been die-hard smokers and they have been able to make the ban work for them. But perhaps Europeans are better at following the laws and don’t need to be beat over the head to comply. (But have you seen the French smoking like nobody’s business here in Jordan just like a treat?!)

    Raise the price of the cigarettes, but I am afraid all kinds of black market ways will open up to sell cheaper cigarettes and people will flock to Syria or elsewhere to buy them there.

    God willing with time and education and hopefully enforcement of the law, we will see some change. I can’t wait for it to happen.

    Oh, and another thing…have you noticed how on the list of public places, no restaurants or shopping malls are included???? Those are the biggest problem areas! You can’t move in the mall without dodging someone’s cig pointed at your children’s eyeballs or inhale a mouthful of smoke at a restaurant with every bite. Enough already!

  11. You have some great ideas in here. But I don’t agree with the marijuana one! An angry-high population is a bad combination that we don’t want to risk having in jordan.

    I think the following will, sadly, work:

    1. 100% tax on cigarettes.
    2. People who smoke in public places should be fined. No less than 50 JD.
    3. Governmental emplyees who smoke in their work premises should be suspended for a week or so, with salary deductions applied.
    4. Companies allowing employees to smoke inside the building should also be heavily fined!!
    5. And most importantly, the enforcement of these laws should not be compromised. Inspections need to be taking place.

    It’s scares you when you know that one-third of the population are smokers, and that cancer prevalance in the country is very high.

    By the way, I have something to admit. I’m a smoker, and i hate it.

  12. Nas….Thanks for posting this article! I hope it brings awarness to a SERIOUS issue in Jordan…as a native of California, USA…..one of the first states who banned smoking in public facilities, I lived in Heaven…….now I am suffering in Jordan with the number of smokers who as you mentioned ignorantly smoke “typically underneath a no-smoking sign” and unfortunately in the taxis I have to take daily.

    Khalid Jarrar….I will vote for your presidency!!! Please ban smoking! 🙂

    PS…whats even worse are all the girls who go to the gym and hair salons just to smoke their cigarette. WHy should I suffer and breathe their toxins???????

  13. Smoking laws in Jordan will be just like traffic laws and many other laws, legislated but not enforced, or enforced only on people who don’t have (Wasta). Unfortunately, most people in Jordan have (Wasta). By the way, the word Wasta means a pull in English, but I noticed that most Westerners are not familiar with the word, so it should be introduced to English as it is, just like the word “falafel” .

  14. First representants of authority should be sensibilized by the question to feel more responsible of what they are supposed to protect. They should be the first to be punished by not following the rules they are supposed to be paid for protecting them. It’s the first and most important step that Jordan misses so much. Even authorities don’t respect authority.

    Then we can think about seeing the country changing, and if it doesn’t, find solutions as increasing the price of cigarets.

    It reminds me what we always say in france : we use to saying “no i’m sorry” when someone needs light for his cigaret. The joke is “why do you say sorry ? You just saved his life.”

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