For years, you have been making money off my lungs.
For years, you have been forcing me to indirectly gulp down clouds of smoke with whatever I had ordered to eat at your premises.
For years, you made clear efforts at increasing your revenue by introducing various elements of smoking (shisha for instance) that doesn’t even work with most of your menus.
For years, your incessant need to make money in droves has driven your customers in droves to oncologists all over the country.
For years, we’ve put up with your crap. For years, we’ve taken it because we were those whom the law didn’t serve. For years, we suffered and you made money.
But this is unacceptable no more.
I invite you to check this study (click here) which clearly shows a benefit for non-smokers from smoking bans. You obviously don’t care about that because if you did, you wouldn’t have let the situation at your premises stay the way it has been for such a long time.
But that’s not the point. The point is that you want some places to be exempted from the law because it will have an economical effect on them. Clubs, with a smoking ban, would see their business decline apparently.
Would a smoker who likes clubbing suddenly decide not to go clubbing just because he is forbidden from smoking there? No. He would do as any other smoker would: take a mini-break from the dancing and drinking and go smoke a cigarette outside. With the other smokers. Away from my nose and lungs.
Would said smoker be furious at first? Sure, just as any over-indulgent five year old would be once you’ve taken their favorite toy from them. But once they get used to it, they will get over it.
I guess you don’t want that. In Lebanon, a smoker is always right and a non-smoker is always wrong. Things shouldn’t be easy for those who don’t want to smoke. Things should be kept easy for those who want to do so.
But this is not acceptable anymore.
When I was in Paris a few days ago, I was waiting for a table to clear at one of the city’s restaurants when I saw two women walk outside. The hostess asked them: Are you leaving?
They answered: No, we’re just going outside to smoke. And I smiled because that was the first time I had seen that simple act in my life. And I started wondering why can’t we have that in Lebanon as well?
The answer is so evident it doesn’t even need to be illustrated.
It’s high time that Lebanese society – even when it comes to the littlest things such as smoking – stop cutting corners for those who choose to adopt that luxury. And it starts with restaurants.
I invite you to read this little article that I wrote a while back about smoking in Lebanon. It stems from my limited, albeit existent, knowledge in psychology and psychiatry. If your restaurants keep smoking cues available everywhere, then even the harshest of laws cannot reduce smoking rates.
Will the Lebanese smoking ban go into full effect? I seriously doubt – as is the case with any other law in this country. There will be some decent places that will abide by it. Smokers will slowly get used to their favorite places, if any, abiding by the law. But what I can’t stand is a bunch of millionaire restaurant owners worrying about their bottom line.
It’s not their place to worry about the health of their customers, obviously. But I’d rather see a few shisha places out of the few million we have in each neighborhood in Beirut go broke than to see more oncologists hit the jackpot. A little harsh? Perhaps. But drastic measures need to be taken in a country where smoking has become a human right, not a “privilege” as it should be.
The only thing I’d change in the law? Make a cigarette pack $10 and watch the smokers cry.