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A smoking ban... in Syria!?

The War on Tobacco has struck the Middle East.

The government of Syria has implemented a ban on smoking in public places such as cafes, restaurants, and other buildings where the public gathers. It's the latest in a series of measures to reduce tobacco's role in society.

While not as comprehensive as Finland's anti-smoking laws passed earlier this year, they're surprising for an Arab country, where a large percentage of the adult population smokes. Cafes in Damascus and other Syrian cities and towns are generally hazy with smoke from cigarettes and nargile, traditional water pipes.

But not anymore. The ban has had the same effect in Syria that it has had in other nations--pushing people outside to smoke in the street. Plus the series of laws isn't deterring people from smoking, with Syria Today Magazine reporting that the number of smokers has risen 15 percent. The Syrian Society for Countering Cancer reports that 60 percent of men and 23 percent of women smoke.

If smoking travelers can handle the restrictions, they'll find a fascinating country with hospitable people and many ancient monuments. Cities such as Damascus and Aleppo have traditional old quarters with labyrinthine medieval alleys, countless little shops and cafes, beautiful mosques. . .and grumpy smokers standing in the street.

Filed under: Syria, News, Middle East

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