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Nargileh — a new debate in Jordan

Feb 10,2014 - Last updated at Feb 10,2014

Nargileh is a water pipe with flavoured tobacco. For a while now, it is being smoked widely; most restaurants and cafés in the Middle East and some other parts of the world provide nargileh to their customers.

It somehow is associated with a distinctive way of life in the Arab region and takes one back to the magic Arabian nights.

However, serving nargileh has become a cause for dispute; some think it is a tool to encourage domestic and international tourism, and to provide a local feature to the different guests, particularly, from non-Arab countries, others believe that it is unhealthy and could negatively affect smokers and non-smokers alike.

Doctors support this latter argument, saying that smoking nargileh is more harmful than smoking cigarettes, and may transmit diseases.

Jordan, with the highest rate of smoking in the area (29 per cent), decided to totally ban nargileh in coffee shops and restaurants to achieve the final aim of becoming a smoke-free country.

According to Ministry of Health statistics, more than 22 per cent of youth aged 13-15 smoke nargileh in Jordan.

This alone should be enough to support the ban on smoking and work to modify laws and regulations to that end.

Yet the ban has opened the door to debate. Investors in the food and beverage sector expressed fear that this new policy will cause the loss of more than 12,000 employment opportunities and overall losses for this sector.

It would be reasonable to listen to the different stakeholders involved in the tourism industry and find a compromise to both protect people’s health and protect the food and beverage sector.

One possible solution could be to allow nargileh smoking only in special outdoor spaces and give certain incentives to smoke-free tourism service providers.

The writer is assistant professor at the Tourism Management Department, Faculty of Archaeology and Tourism, University of Jordan. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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