Iraq - cabinet considers anti-smoking law..

August 6, 2009 - The Iraqi Cabinet has approved a draft bill to ban smoking in public places, a government spokesman said Thursday, August 6th. It's the first such bill in a country where lighting up is virtually a rite of passage for most young men. Smoking is common in many Arab countries, where a pack of cigarettes costs as little as 43 cents and there are few restrictions on where smokers can light up.

The law aims to curb the number of people who start smoking and raise awareness about the dangers of cigarettes, spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said. For passage, the draft still needs approval in parliament, which is in recess until September.
If passed, the Iraqi law would be one of the region's most comprehensive bans, similar to many laws in the U.S. and Europe.

Public places include: government buildings, schools, movie theaters and in public transportation. The media also would be banned from advertising cigarettes.

It also would ban the sale of cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18 and fine anyone who is caught selling with up to 5 million Dinars, or about $4,300.

Al-Dabbagh said the law also would require cigarette companies to put warning labels on packages.

"The Ministry of Health will take over the responsibility of coordinating with other ministries and educational institutions as well as administering programs that will raise awareness of smoking and its dangers," al-Dabbagh said in a written statement.

Baghdad resident Mohammed Hussein, 45, said he considers smoking law to be the least pressing of laws that parliament should consider. "The smoking law is not as important as many other laws with a higher priority for Iraqis," said Hussein, who works at the oil ministry and said he smoked for 25 years before quitting. Hussein: cigarettes are so inexpensive in Iraq "that even a poor boy can buy them."

Ihssan Jaafar Ahmed, the Health Ministry's public health director, acknowledged the ban would be hard to enforce in a country that is emerging from a state of lawlessness. But he said it was an important first step.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) more than 41 percent of Iraqi men and nearly seven percent of women are smokers.

Reference: Iraq: Cabinet considers anti-smoking law by HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press, 8/6/2009; Iraq cabinet approves smoking curbs plan, Agence France Presse (AFP), 8/6/2009; Iraq wants to curb smoking in public by HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, The Associated Press, 8/7/2009.

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Iraq ratified the
WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Treaty on March 17, 2008.