Leading Lebanon hotelier: 10,000 jobs at risk due to smoking ban

Hotels in the mountains experienced a sharp drop in occupancy, contrary to Ernst & Young’s cheery report.

BEIRUT: Head of the hotel owners’ association Pierre Ashkar said around 10,000 employees could be laid off when nargileh cafes are forced to shut down by the new law prohibiting smoking indoors.

“Around 1,000 cafes in Lebanon are specialized in nargileh and if they stop working, they will have to let 10,000 employees go,” Ashkar told Al-Joumhouria.

“Therefore, we hope that a section in restaurants will be set aside for smokers,” he suggested.

Private institutions have begun preparing for the application of that section of the law that prohibits smoking indoors, which is set to go into effect on Sept. 3.

The first stage of the law has already gone into effect, prohibiting smoking in public buildings and public modes of transportation – though smoking remains rife in public transport vehicles.

Ashkar also said that he will be meeting with Prime Minister Najib Mikati to present him with a study spotlighting the situation in countries which have passed such a law.

He said that many countries have been forced to amend the law and designate rooms in hotels and restaurants as smoking areas.

In Lebanon, the law has been met with skepticism. Many people fear that in a country with limited rule of law and one of the highest smoking rates in the world, banning smoking will prove difficult if not impossible.

Another concern over the implementation of the law arose when Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud warned Tuesday that the Tourism Police is severely understaffed, and that he may not have enough officers to enforce the ban.

Abboud said that he currently has a staff of around 70 tourism police officers, but that only 10 can be devoted to enforcing the smoking ban, which requires 256 officers to be effectively enforced.

In his interview, Ashkar also said that the biggest problem with the law is that, although theoretically its scope is nationwide, effectively it will only be enforced in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, as no one will monitor its implementation in other areas.





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