Syrian - spends $600 million each year on tobacco despite ban..

April 7, 2009 - Smokers in Syria burn up about 600 million dollars on tobacco and cigarettes each year, despite a ban on advertising and smoking in public, according to statistics published on Monday. "Smokers annually spend about 26 billion Syrian pounds (600 million dollars)," the state news agency SANA said, quoting a report by an official Syrian tobacco institution.

"Each smoker spends about eight percent of his income to buy 3.6 kilogrammes (about eight pounds) of tobacco," it said. The number of smokers in the Middle Eastern country has gone up by 15 percent, it said without elaborating, despite government attempts to counter the trend.

SANA said up to 60 percent of men and 24 percent of women still light up in Syria, which has a population approaching 20 million and where hookah (water pipe, sheesha, shisha, narghile) are becoming increasingly popular.

A law came into force in 2006 banning smoking in public places and on public transport, and a year ago Syria introduced a ban on tobacco sales to those under the age of 19.

The authorities have already instituted controversial antismoking steps. Smoking is now banned in all government buildings and the price of Syrian-made tobacco - the cheapest cigarettes on the market - was raised by 10 per cent this month. Smoking in a taxi is, in theory, punishable by a fine of 500 Syrian pounds (Dh36, 10.55USD). Although smoking is now prohibited in government buildings, it is not uncommon to see staff - even senior officials - lighting up in their offices. A taxi driver without a packet of cigarettes is a rare sight.

Syria was also one of the first Arab states to set up a national cancer register to track the effects of smoking, as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Reference: Syrian Spends $600 Million on Tobacco Each Year Despite Ban, Source-AFP,, 4/7/2009.

Syrian Arab Republic has ratified the
WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Treaty.