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Amendments to Public Health Law a step in right direction — experts

Proposed changes seek to address ‘loopholes’, increase fine on smokers in public places

By Dana Al Emam - Feb 16,2017 - Last updated at Feb 16,2017

Proposed amendments to the Public Health Law seek to impose a JD100-JD200 penalty on smokers in public areas (File photo)

AMMAN — The proposed amendments to the Public Health Law are “a step in the right direction” and are in line with international efforts in this regard, according to experts.

Fatima Khalifeh Odiabat, head of the Health Ministry’s tobacco control department, said the proposed amendments seek to address “loopholes” in the current Public Health Law, regarding the definition of a public place and penalties on violators.

In a recent phone interview with The Jordan Times, she said the proposed amendments, which are currently under study at the Lower House, entail a JD100-JD200 penalty on smokers in public areas and JD1,000-JD3,000 on owners of facilities where the violation took place.

The current Public Health Law penalises both the smoker and the owner with JD15 to JD25 fines.

The Health Ministry official noted that owners of cafés and restaurants who violate the regulations usually “underestimate” the penalties, noting that a JD25 fine is nothing compared to daily revenues that exceed JD1,000.

Furthermore, the proposed amendments change the definition of a public place into a more comprehensive one in accordance with the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

The bill defines public places as any privately or publicly owned place that is designed to accommodate the public or a group gathering, with examples like hospitals, healthcare centres, means of public transport at and so on, Khalifeh Odiabat explained.

In addition, the proposed amendments grant the health minister the authority to close down facilities that repeat violations over three times.

Khalifeh Odiabat said the ministry’s inspectors are currently the only personnel with law enforcement authority, while work is under way to expand this authority to public servants from other agencies.

Larissa Al Uar, a founding member and the secretary general of the Tobacco-Free Jordan Association, said the association fully supports the amendments, which are consistent with international standards for tobacco control.

While it is very important to tighten the legal grip on violators, she said it is equally important to spread social awareness on the benefits of law enforcement to smokers and non-smokers alike.

Commenting on the government’s commitment to the enforcement of tobacco-related laws, Al Uar, who is also a dentist, said smoking has become a concern of “national priority” as it is a risk factor to the four major non-communicable diseases: cancer, heart diseases, pulmonary diseases and diabetes,

The direct and indirect costs of tobacco consumption should be a reminder of the need to fight against smoking, she added. 

Jordanian Anti-smoking Society President and Anti-Smoking Arab Council Secretary General Mohammed Shreim commended the amendments, saying that it is necessary to stiffen penalties on administrators of public places more than that on smokers because they allowed the violation to happen in the first place.


At the same time, he complained that collective national efforts are intensified only when addressing other major health issues, such as swine flu, but not when tobacco is concerned.

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