Four months after Parliament approved a law to ban smoking in public places, Parliament members said Thursday that the first phase of implementation has began and urged officials to be vigilant in enforcing the measure.
Speaking during at a news conference at Parliament, Beirut MP Atef Majdalani told reporters that there are three major phases for the implementation of the new smoking policy and described the penalties for those who fail to follow the law.
The first stage, which went into effect in September, bans smoking in government buildings, hospitals, pharmacies, schools and universities, cinemas, stadiums, on public transportation and in private companies.
Violators of the law are subject to penalties ranging from a LL100,000 fine to three months in prison. “All those who thought such a law would not be implemented will now be disappointed … we will not hesitate to hold people accountable,” said Majdalani.
Metn MP Ghassan Moukheiber said that more needs to be done to ensure the proper implementation of the smoking ban in the country, including at Parliament.
“Although part of the law is in effect now … there are lawmakers who continue to smoke in the Parliament and in ministries,” Moukheiber told The Daily Star.
“Some good third of the Parliament members are smokers and many of them are still not complying with the law,” he added.
The tobacco law, which was passed by the Parliament in August, stipulates fines for business owners as well as their patrons if they violate the ban.
“Every Lebanese should be responsible and be ready to accept the new terms of the law and refrain from smoking automatically,” Moukheiber said, adding that there are still many Lebanese who are unhappy with the smoking ban.
“For this new law to succeed, you need strong political will and the development of a nationwide culture of understanding toward the law.”
In the second phase of the new smoking law, all advertising of tobacco products, including sponsorship of events by tobacco companies, will be banned across the country. According to Majdalani, the second phase will go into effect in March next year.
Rima Nakkash, assistant professor at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the American University of Beirut, said that cooperation between parliamentary committees and the government could improve enforcement of the law.
“There is good cooperation between the legislative and the executive branches in approving implementation decrees that will support the enforcement and compliance of the law,” said Nakkash.
According to Nakkash, officials should now focus on the steps required for the enforcement of penalties, but she said that the public have shown their approval of the smoking ban.
“We had surveys on Lebanese public opinion regarding the ban and the approval rate of the law was very high,” said Nakkash, adding that such approval should facilitate enforcement of the law.
In the months before the approval of the new smoking law at the parliament, high-ranking lobbyists of both local and international tobacco firms rallied at parliamentary committee meetings in a bid to delay the legislation and perhaps influence its contents.
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