BEIRUT: Amendments to the nonsmoking ban proposed by Lebanese Forces MP Antoine Zahra would include designated sections for smokers and would also eventually 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 hurt the tourism sector and Lebanon’s economy has suffered enough,” Zahra was quoted by local media as saying in Parliament.
“This amendment designates smoking sections as well as ventilation systems by international standards in addition to a ban for under-18s 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,” said Pierre Achkar, head of the Hotels Association, during a news conference Tuesday, while the head of the Chambers of Commerce Mohammad Choucair asked the government to provide 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 that 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.
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.
The Cabinet is studying ways to cover the salary scale hike estimated to cost the treasury around more than $1.6 billion annually.