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‘Put It Out’ campaign looks to tackle ‘ignored’ public smoking law

By Maram Kayed - Jan 20,2019 - Last updated at Jan 20,2019

The World Health Organisation has classified Jordan as the country with the highest percentage of smokers in the region, and the second in the world (File photo)

AMMAN — The second “Put It Out” campaign, a collaborative effort to enforce tobacco control under Public Health Law 47, was launched on Sunday.

With the World Health Organisation (WHO) classifying Jordan as the country with the highest percentage of smokers in the region, and the second in the world, Jordan is looking at what the campaign’s organisers are calling “a health emergency”. According to the WHO, Indonesia is the only country with a larger percentage of smokers. 

Public Health Law 47 dictates a strict no-smoking rule for public places that went into effect in 2008, but “is perhaps one of the most overlooked and ignored laws ever in the Kingdom”, said Deputy City Manager for Health and Agriculture at the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) Mervat Mheirat.

In an attempt to reinforce and highlight the law, the campaign will provide the means to report any violations via the "Bekhedmetkom" application, or through the Ministry of Health’s hotline.

“We have created an extension reserved for tobacco-related violations,” said Abeer Mowaswas, director of the Health Awareness and Communications Directorate at the ministry.

The penalties for violators have also been increased to between JD100 and JD200, or imprisonment for one to three months.

Businesses, such as restaurants and cafes, are also subject to a fine if there is a lack of separation between smoking and non-smoking areas, or if they serve tobacco products to minors. 

“Some businesses have been fined more than JD3000 for such violations,” added Mheirat.

She said that GAM recorded 982 fines and 257 warnings during 2018. The Ministry of Health also registered 570 violations, 49 closures and more than 1,600 warnings.

“We have found that fines are the first step to reducing tobacco use in any county,” said Hala Boukerdenna, Jordan's tobacco control official at the United Nations.

With over 70 per cent of Jordanian adult males classified as smokers, and 60 per cent of Jordanians exposed to second-hand smoke, the country is “stuck in a place where developed countries were 20 years ago”, said United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Jordan, Anders Pedersen.

“There was a time when smoking was allowed on airplanes, but times have changed. Now that science has revealed the side effects of smoking, very few people take that risk,” he told The Jordan Times.

With one in three deaths in Jordan being attributed to smoking, Anderson said the Kingdom does not need campaigns as much as it needs “social mobilisation that understands that smoking is a thing of the past... I am hopeful the country will reach that vision by 2030”.

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