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House tolerates smoking under Dome despite tougher penalties

By Laila Azzeh - Mar 13,2016 - Last updated at Mar 13,2016

A lawmaker smokes as he attends Sunday’s House meeting (Photo by Osama Aqarbeh)

AMMAN — The Lower House on Sunday approved a stricter version to the Public Health Law, which prohibits smoking in public areas.

However, the development triggered a public debate, especially since those who made the law still practise the unhealthy habit under the Dome. 

Under the new amendments, those caught smoking in public areas will face a penalty of imprisonment ranging between one month to three months or a JD100-200 fine instead of a JD15-25 fine or a penalty of imprisonment ranging from one week to one month, as stipulated in the original law.

Public spaces are classified according to the new amendments as those that are prepared to receive people such as hospitals, healthcare centres, schools, cinemas, theatres, libraries and galleries.

Public areas also include government and non-government institutions, play areas, closed sports facilities, lecture rooms, restaurants, Internet cafes, border points along with airports' arrival and departure halls.

"The Public Health Law was not activated because it required tremendous efforts by the Health Ministry to enforce it. We have more than 20,000 locations classified as public spaces. Some government institutions receive more than 10,000 people a day," said head of the House's Health and Environment Committee, Deputy Raed Hijazeen.

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. I believe that the amended law will be a good start in our mission to fully enforce the law," he told The Jordan Times on Sunday.

According to the new amendments, every person responsible for a public area and allows smoking or does not announce a ban on smoking will face an imprisonment term that is no less than three months and no more than six months or a JD1,000-3,000 fine.

Those caught smoking in kindergartens, private or public schools will be imprisoned for no less than three months and no more than six months or pay a fine between JD1,000 and JD3,000.

When the House’s health committee referred its proposed amended law to MPs for approval, people have expressed their "shock" and "dismay" over the law, particularly as MPs themselves smoke under the Dome.

“They should ban smoking inside the House before starting to impose the law elsewhere. The message they give us is that lawmakers are above the law. How ironic!” Khader Faouri, a private sector employee, told The Jordan Times on Sunday.

Shireen Nawras, also an employee, agreed, saying that “it is unacceptable for deputies to enforce something on the public that they even cannot abide to”.

However, and while acknowledging that MPs should not smoke inside the House, Hijazeen noted that the Dome is not considered a public area, but a place that is designated for lawmakers, ministers and those who are permitted to attend the session.

“We hope that one day we can ban smoking under the Dome, which is a sort of a private room where lawmakers and government officials gather,” he said.

History is not encouraging. In 2004, noted the MP, lawmakers were banned from smoking, but meetings started to lose quorum when deputies left ongoing deliberations to smoke outside.

“This prompted the speaker to allow smoking inside,” Hijazeen, who is a smoker himself, noted.

“For me, I make sure that I do not smoke inside the House,” he said.

People on social media platforms also criticised the timing of the law, saying that there are other significant issues deputies could discuss.

 

“MPs act as if everything else is great in the country and all we need is a ban on smoking,” said Mohammad Al Shalabi on his Facebook page.

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Mps should be the role model... Next time Jordanians should not vote a candidate who are a chain smoker...

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