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Being reasonable when legislating

Mar 03,2014 - Last updated at Mar 03,2014

On Sunday, 13 deputies called for amending the Public Health Law to allow nargileh to be smoked in restaurants, cafés and at tourist sites.

The call comes weeks after authorities decided to start enforcing a law that bans smoking in public places, a decision that includes water pipes, which are offered at almost all restaurants and cafés around the country.

It is good our authorities decided to start enforcing laws even at this late hour, and too bad that some members of this legislature not only ignore the dangers inherent in smoking and the heavy cost shouldered by the country to deal with its effects on health, but also shamelessly violate the Public Health Law by smoking under the Dome, in total disregard for the sanctity of the laws they introduce and the symbolism of this place.

The 13 deputies who lobby for allowing nargileh in “certain” public places claim that their proposal comes in defence of investments worth JD1 billion, which offer job opportunities to more than 12,000 people; they warn that banning the harmful water pipes would force eateries and cafés to close, thus harming tourism.

So these deputies want to keep supporting the harmful tobacco industry that is costing the country more than JD1.5 billion in direct and indirect costs, under the pretext of protecting businesses that offer job opportunities.

Would such deputies also defend prostitution, and growing marijuana and hashish under the same pretext, that they might generate hundreds of millions of dinars, offer job opportunities and attract tourists? Certainly not.

So it would be better if they offer proposals on how to make up for the cost of tobacco imports, estimated at more than JD700 million a year, and for the health expenses that some estimate at more than JD800 million shouldered by the country as a whole.

Our deputies have to be reasonable and take a holistic view when legislating.

There are other sides to the story that these deputies need to study, including the wasted income on imports of tobacco and related paraphernalia, and the medical cost for diseases inflicted by the habit.

These deputies might wish to pay a visit to some medical establishments, which should include the King Hussein Cancer Foundation.

To be able to represent their constituencies well, they should also defend non-smokers’ right to clean air in public places that include restaurants, cafés and even hospitals.

They have to keep in mind that the norm is to have a smoke-free environment, with smoking areas as the exception.

Unfortunately, the opposite applies in many places in Jordan, including Parliament.

Our representatives should work for a smoke-free Jordan if they really care about the health of the nation, its children and its future.

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