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Lebanon News

Zahra proposes amendments to smoking ban

Lebanese lawmaker Antoine Zahra speaks during an interview with The Daily Star in Beirut. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir, File)

BEIRUT: Batroun MP Antoine Zahra proposed urgent amendments to the smoking ban which went into effect last month and called on the Parliament to approve it to help revive the country’s already struggling tourism sector.

Amendments to the nonsmoking ban proposed by Zahra include designated sections for smokers and would also yield income to the treasury via taxes, the politician said Thursday.

“I submitted an urgent amendment to Article 5 of the nonsmoking ban after it was obvious that applying the law has hurt the tourism sector although Lebanon’s economy has suffered enough,” Zahra told reporters at the Parliament.

“This amendment designates smoking sections as well as ventilation systems in line with international standards, in addition to banning people less than 18 years of age to enter places where smoking is allowed,” Zahra added.

Zahra’s submission comes a day after the tourism associations demanded the government amend the nonsmoking ban which went into effect last month, saying the sector has been burdened with heavy losses as a result.

“We are not calling to cancel the smoking ban but [for a law] that takes our business into account,” Pierre Achkar, Head of the Hotels Association, said during a news conference Tuesday, while the Head of the Chambers of Commerce Mohammad Choucair asked the government to give licenses for institutes specialized in nargileh.

On the day Law 174 went into effect, several restaurants and nargileh cafes shut down in protest while a demonstration took place in the Metn town of Antelias.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Zahra said his proposed amendment also includes a means for the government to cover expenditures, particularly the public sector’s salary scale hike.

“This amendment gives the state an additional output via taxes on places where smoking is allowed,” he said.

According to Zahra’s proposal, Law 174 should be amended in a way that would grant restaurants and hotels to choose whether they want to have smoking sections or not.

If a hotel complies with the conditions for having an isolated hall which won’t exceed 5 percent of the hotel’s space and pays the necessary taxes to the government, it should be allowed to have a smoking section, according to Zahra’s proposal.

He also announced that he submitted two draft amendments that would cover the expense of the salary scale hike via taxes on tobacco and imported alcohol.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 05, 2012, on page 4.

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