BEIRUT: Lebanon’s health minister has launched an angry attack on parents who fail to stop their offspring smoking, warning that children as young as thirteen were being allowed to smoke waterpipes.
“Such parents deserve to go to prison because they are not performing their duty toward their children and society,” Jamil Jabak said.
Figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that 40 percent of students aged 13 to 15 in Lebanese public and private schools smoke cigarettes, while 38 percent use waterpipes.
About 70 percent of students in the same age group are exposed to cigarette smoke in their homes, while 50 percent are exposed to waterpipe smoke.
The statistics were revealed by Dr. Iman Shankiti, WHO’s representative in Lebanon, at a joint press conference with the health minister on Wednesday.
Shankiti warned that “tobacco kills one person in the world every four seconds.”
Jabak announced that smoking will be banned in the ministry’s headquarters as a first step toward making all Lebanese ministries smoke free as part of a ban on smoking in public places.
A top-level meeting held two days ago to discuss measures to ease Lebanon’s mounting economic crisis decided to impose a tax of 1,000 Lebanese pounds (61 cents) on a pack of imported cigarettes to boost the state’s financial revenues. The 2019 budget passed two months ago approved the same tax on waterpipes ordered at restaurants and cafes.
After the smoking ban was passed in 2012 following years of debate, restaurant and cafe owners argued that it would result in the loss of $46 million in tourism revenue and threaten 2,600 full-time jobs.
However, the American University of Beirut (AUB) argued that the ban “will lead to an increase in the proportion of nonsmoking customers, a decrease in the health bill and a higher worker productivity.
The health minister on Wednesday said that inspectors will begin visiting restaurants and cafes to ensure the ban was being implemented.
Violations, including allowing smoking indoors or people under 18 to use waterpipes, would result in large fines,
Dr. Jad Chaaban, associate professor of economics at the AUB, said that smokers in Lebanon spend $437 million on cigarettes annually. Up to 25 percent of deaths in the country each year are caused
“The indirect health cost of smoking is $64.6 million per year, while the direct cost of smoking on the economy is $262.1 million. Cigarettes and cigarette packs make up 46 percent of the waste on the streets,” he said.