BEIRUT // A smoking ban in all closed public spaces, including coffee shops, restaurants and bars, went into force in Lebanon today under new legislation that promises hefty fines for lawbreakers.
Endorsed by Lebanon's parliament last year, the law also bans tobacco advertisements, which have been criticised for luring young people into smoking.
Smokers caught lighting up in a closed public space face a US$90 (Dh330) penalty, while restaurant or cafe owners who turn a blind eye to offenders could be fined anything from US$900 to US$2,700.
The number of smokers in Lebanon is among the highest in the region and cancer-related illnesses directly linked to tobacco are rising at a rapid rate, health professionals say.
Still, there is speculation as to how far the new ban can actually hold in a country where cigarette, cigar and shisha smoking is so popular and widespread.
Some 46 per cent of Lebanese men and 31 per cent of women are regular cigarette smokers, according to World Health Organisation statistics that date back to November 2010.
Cigarette packs cost little over a dollar, a price even many Lebanese teenagers can afford.
But rather than focus on the potential health benefits, many have focused on the potential economic cost of the new law.
Lebanese restaurant and cafe owners have cried foul, warning that shisha cafe owners especially will suffer.