Lebanese Restaurants Violating The Smoking Ban: 3enab, Gemmayze

I went to 3enab yesterday for the first time and I thought it was a very cool restaurant. I really liked the old-fashioned Lebanese architectural aspect of it. The food was good as well – after all, you can’t go terribly wrong with Lebanese food, which is the absolute best, and that is a fact.

As my friends and I settled down, a waiter came to us and asked if we wanted an arguile. I promptly asked him: isn’t smoking banned? He then replied: we’ll open this window:

Never mind that the window was tiny but apparently that’s enough to consider the room an “open space” – whatever that means. Soon enough, a couple coming for dinner ordered an arguile. The man was also smoking cigar.

As we finished having dinner and turned around to leave, we were surprised to find the entire restaurant filled with arguiles, even in sections of the restaurant without windows to open. A friend noted as we exited the door: it felt like shisha cafe for a moment there.

 

Ironically, this is the sign they had at their main door:

As soon as I left, I called 1735 and reported the place. They took my contact info and said they’ll look into it. But as I was made to realize: infringing the law this obviously in an area where tourism police is constantly on the prowl, seeing it was a Friday night, means 3enab probably has some under the table dealings with those making sure the law is carried out. Anything for that extra arguile revenue.

I’m pretty sure those against the smoking ban are elated right now.

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Michelle Tueini on Lebanon’s Smoking Ban

Finally.

We have someone talking without having a history of sarcastic plays that resonate true today with a staunch following. Just because your foot is in sewage doesn’t mean you can’t wipe the dirt off your mouth – and Michelle Tueni says so very eloquently in her piece in Al Nahar. Check it (click here – Arabic).

She says and I translate:

“Those who say the law is being applied at an inappropriate time and that Lebanon has bigger problems should know that Lebanon is a country that faces frequent tensions and if we were going to think that way we won’t move forward. And even if Lebanon has bigger problems, we can’t ignore the smaller issues because that is how we effectively hit rock bottom.”

In other news, I invite you to check this awesome Thai ad to fight smoking. I think it’s very smart.

 

 

Lebanese Restaurants Not Following The Smoking Ban: Feniqia, Jbeil

I was taking my Australian cousins out to dinner today and I decided to have them try out Feniqia in Jbeil. One of my cousins, who has been visiting Lebanon more or less frequently lately, complained about the place having too much shisha and smoke. So I gleefully told her about the smoking ban and how a decent place like Feniqia was surely abiding by it.

As we neared the place, we saw a man smoking a shisha. But we was immediately next to a window so I thought that maybe that was their policy – you get to smoke if you’re close to an open window as long as you blow your fumes outside.

Then, as we had our dinner, a couple sat next to us. The guy held out his pack of Marlboro and lit a cigarette. So I told him that it’s forbidden to smoke here. He replied: really? So I told him: Yes, haven’t you heard of the new law?

He said that he was aware of the law but that he saw many people smoking shisha. So he called the restaurant manager to make sure. The manager came over and I asked him: isn’t your place abiding by the non-smoking law?

His reply? Of course and without a doubt not.

He said so with pride and left. The guy’s date ordered her shisha and she started smoking as well. So I decided to try and call the number to which you can report such incidences. After much searching, someone on twitter let me know that the number you need to call to report restaurants not abiding by the smoking law is 1214 – the hotline of the ministry of health.

I called that number 3 times. It got disconnected almost immediately. They must be sleeping – such a hot hotline, right?

As for Feniqia, I don’t expect it to follow the law anytime soon. Not even when winter rolls around and it can’t leave its windows open for aeration. And being a regular, I haven’t seen them undergo modifications of the place to bring it up to par with the regulations. And for proof’s sake, here are a few pictures.

Update:

The numbers that you need to call to report restaurants are either 112 or 1735. Call the numbers when you’re at the restaurant not the following day.

Flawless Lebanese Anti-Non Smoking Logic

To say I’m excited about a smoking ban in Lebanon would be an understatement. I remember when I got the news via twitter while at a museum in Madrid last summer. I felt the need to share with anyone who’d listen, Lebanese or not.

What I didn’t think, however, was that one year later – as the ban is starting to come into effect – I’d actually see people vehemently against it, complaining about how the law is a violation of their rights, nagging about a state that can’t but feel powerful against those who are weak.

They don’t give us electricity, they don’t give us security, they don’t give us proper transportation, they don’t give us water, they don’t give us social security, they don’t provide decent healthcare…. What gives them the right to take smoking away from me?

That is literally what I heard yesterday by more than one Lebanese smokers. The sad part? A few non-smokers agreed with them as well. I’m fairly certain they are not the only ones. Some people are already proud about smoking in places covered by the ban. I literally just saw a few doing so.
And as I’m typing this, MTV is reporting that some restaurant owners have decided to close their places in protest on the smoking ban.

Yes, let’s complain about losing money if the ban goes into effect. Then let’s close down, lose the money and tell them all: ta-daaa!

And that is my friends impeccable Lebanese logic where A, despite it having absolutely nothing to do with B, somehow becomes perfectly correlated with it.

Why would anyone mix together the issues of electricity, the arms of Hezbollah, the Mekdad military wing, burning tires and people not admitted into hospitals with a smoking ban?

I, for one, have no idea. And as I tried to explain exactly how non-sequitur this sounded, the conversation volume was raised by more than a few notches. When you don’t make sense, start shouting. Oddly enough, this reminds me of more than a few Lebanese politician. It seems to be genetic.

And then you have those “panicking” about the sector losing 2600 jobs because smokers will somehow, in another piece of flawless logic, stop going out to eat and party and drink. Of course the syndicate of Lebanese restaurant owners doesn’t really care about people losing their jobs. It cares about its business decreasing because they can’t make easy money off selling overpriced shisha.

And when you try to tell people exactly how silly that sounds, they reply that non-smokers can go to non-smoking places. Which non-smoking places are they talking about? I have absolutely no idea whatsoever. In a country like Lebanon, no business dares to be solely no smoking. And those who do are in a different league of competition. Why? Because smokers will refuse to go there. But when all restaurants are non-smoking, either the entirety of Lebanon’s smokers will become isolationists who don’t venture out of their homes as the syndicate is suggesting or the syndicate of Lebanese restaurant owners is only worried about its bottom line losing one of its sources.
I’m sure it’s the latter. They want you to think it’s the former. And to that effect, they’ve made fancy infographics and whatnot.

What their logic is obviously lacking is simply looking at countries that have enforced smoking bans and noticing how their restaurant sectors didn’t suddenly go bankrupt and didn’t suffer. People get used to it. But they don’t want change. They love the status quo where your food is served mixed with cigarette ash.

No. One simply doesn’t take smoking from Lebanese smokers peacefully. One doesn’t simply start a law with the country having any other problem whatsoever. Today they nag about the electricity. If the electricity gets fixed, they’ll nag about Beirut lacking a subway system. When/if we end up getting a subway system, they’ll nag about our lack of nuclear energy. And the excuses will keep coming.

Simply put, some smokers and restaurant owners have one thing to say to you: f*ck you and your overly sensitive lungs.

The Smoking Situation in Lebanon: Blame The System, Not The Smoker

I always wondered why so many Lebanese smoke. We’ve all been through an educational system with more than one picture of a smoking-ruined lung in our biology textbook. We’ve all been through more than one lecture about the bad effects of smoking. We’ve all been through a phase where we were afraid of what our parents, some of whom smoke, would think of us if we do.

Despite all of that, many people ended up as smokers.

I am not talking here about our parents’ generation. They are the war generation to whom smoking might have been a way to cope with the stress of everyday life. But to our generation, one which is supposedly more aware than previous ones, the rates of smokers is just too high. You only need to go out with a group of people your age to notice this. My medical school class has 68 students. At least half of those are smokers. Less than half of them actually admit it when asked.

Fact. Nicotine is the most addictive substance known to man. No, not heroin. Not cocaine. Yes, nicotine. So when a smoker tells you they are not “addicted” to smoking, they are simply delusional.

Fact. Talking about lack of willpower when it comes to stopping smoking is nonsensical. Smokers have willpower the same as everybody else. It takes them way more effort, however, to be able to stop. Them not being able to stop smoking doesn’t mean they don’t have the will for it.

Fact. The more smokers you have in a given community, the higher the chance for non-smokers to fall into the habit: Peer pressure, imitation, call it whatever you want.

Fact. The easier it is to have access to cigarettes, the easier it’ll be for a non-smoker to become a smoker.

Let’s examine the situation in Lebanon. A regular shop in any given neighborhood has a stand for cigarettes displayed next to the cashier. That stand has a sticker that says cigarette packs are never sold to those less than eighteen years of age. This sticker is a formality. A fifteen year old enters said shop. This fifteen year old has an allowance of about $20 per week. Of those $20, he finds it very easy to dispose of $2 for a pack of cigarettes. This teenager goes back home and hides his pack. Later that evening, he meets up with a couple of his friends and they smoke it. The following day or week, another one of them volunteers $2 to “try” smoking until it’s no longer trying and their bodies develop a need for nicotine.

A study conducted by Jad Chaaban, Nadia Naamani and Nisreen Salti at the American University of Beirut (AUB) has found that 40.3% of people in Lebanon smoke, at a rate of 12.4 packs per month. This consumption is among the highest in the world, three times higher than Syria. To make things even “worse,” the balance for tobacco revenue and costs has our economy losing more than $55.4 million a year.

Last August, a non-smoking law was voted and its implementation was theoretically supposed to be gradually carried out. The reality, as with most Lebanese laws, is drastically different from theory. Some places, such as ABC mall, have borderline conformed to the ban. The absolute majority, however, has not. So when a smoker goes to almost any place in Lebanon, they will be inundated with cues for them to smoke, which have been proven psychologically to be the greatest trigger for smoking behavior. Those cues trigger the need in the body for nicotine. Example: a cigarette between classes, with coffee, with a drink, etc…

A few years ago, AUB banned smoking on its campus except for few select areas. This has caused many smokers to decrease their consumption. They simply didn’t have time to smoke between classes, on their breaks, on their tight schedules. What AUB did was to considerably suppress the aforementioned cues.

For the current smokers in Lebanon, it may be too late. Some have gone cold-turkey and failed. Others have succeeded. But it remains true that quitting smoking is one the most difficult things to do for smokers.

For the non-smokers, the story is much different and it is there that we must work to lessen smoking in our society. How? By making it drastically more difficult for these youngsters to access cigarettes. You know shops will not conform to the 18-year old limit. If a 15 year old doesn’t get his fix from this place, he’ll go to the next and the next until a pack is sold to him.

The first thing would be to put the cigarette stand in a place where it’s not very evident and easy for anyone to pick up a pack on a whim and make cigarette boxes a standard form: no special fonts and colors for a specific brand. Make them all the same, along with a pictorial warning covering most of the box about the dangers of smoking.

The second thing to do would be to drastically increase the price of cigarette packs. I don’t know why this is not a conceivable approach in a country where gas prices are half consisted of taxes. Meanwhile, cigarette packs have barely any taxes on them. Why not decrease the taxes on gas and increase them on cigarettes? Gas is a lively need for all of the Lebanese population. Cigarette is not. Gas should not be a privilege as it’s slowly becoming. Cigarettes should become a privilege. They currently are not.

Higher prices (say $8 a pack) and a decrease in the “cue” to buy a pack would lead to a drastic decrease in the up and coming generations to have high number of smokers. A higher price would also reflect on current smokers with a decrease in consumption. This leads to an easier implementation of smoking ban at various restaurants, pubs, public venues, etc.

When it comes to smoking in Lebanon, we tend to victimize the smoker for doing something “wrong.” Some smokers rationalize their behavior by saying that “everyone does it.” The “everyone does it” argument is faulty. Just because the majority does something doesn’t make it a good thing: just because the majority of the people in Beirut were exposed to violence in the 1980s does not make it a healthy experience. The fact remains that smoking is bad for smokers and for non-smokers. I, for one, cannot stand the smell. I am near repulsed by seeing the smoke going out of almost every bodily opening the smoker has. But it remains that it’s not a smoker’s fault as it is the system that has made it way too easy. So instead of dreaming big, like we always do in Lebanon, with a comprehensive smoking ban that reaches all the corners of the country, how about we start with baby steps for once and actually get somewhere?

 

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I’m no marketing expert, just a regular consumer. And when I come across very smart ads, I feel like sharing them with people.

Well, these are thirteen ads that I think are absolutely kick-ass! Let me know what you think.



Crepaway Taking Steps Backwards

I was overly happy when the Batroun branch of Crepaway made a separate non-smoking area for those of us who don’t like to inhale with their burgers.
However, as I visited the place with friends, I found the area filled with people who were smoking. I asked about it and was told that they had removed the non-smoking area for the day. The explanation? they didn’t want the smokers to be placed on a waiting list for the smoking areas.

Excuse me Crepaway if I wanted to dine without the smell of cigarettes and without that awful stench getting stuck on my clothes and lungs. I mean, the emphysema I am most certainly going to acquire in this country cannot really be compared to the ten minutes of wait that a smoker has to endure, right?

In Lebanon, non smokers are figuratively run over by their overly dominant opposites in society. After all, clean air is something you’re not entitled to in a country where finding hookahs in American style diners is very common and even normal and where non-smokers have become a distant minority, squashed in almost rodent-like manner.

And let’s talk about the pricing! Back in December, the natural counterpart for Crepaway in Lebanon, Roadster diner, boosted its prices by a considerable amount, causing my friends and I to lessen our visits to a place that was eating away more and more an already tight budget. In the meantime, Crepaway boosted its prices in a lighter manner and they remained quite acceptable for what was offered.

However, I was surprised during my visit to Crepaway that they had increased their prices yet again. The famous Spielmozzarella is now priced at about 17,000LBP, about $11.33 and a Chicken Escalope platter is almost 20,000LBP (about $13.33), with smaller portions of French fries and coleslaw.

I understand fuel prices are on the rise in the country but I am positive chicken is not getting more expensive and nor is meat and, well, I am not going to a restaurant to dine on 95 Octane fuel while sniffing on the “exquisite” scent of a Marlboro.