Parliament not a public place

| March 16, 2016

Jordan’s Lower House on Sunday approved a stricter version of the country’s Public Health Law that prohibits tobacco smoking in public areas, according to a story in The Jordan Times.

The move triggered a public debate, partly because the Lower House is not deemed to be a public area and therefore deputies may continue to smoke there.

The Times story said that public spaces were defined in the new amendments as being those that are prepared to receive members of the public, such as hospitals, healthcare centers, schools, cinemas, theatres, libraries and galleries.

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

Under the amendments to the law, the penalties that can be imposed on those caught smoking in public areas have been increased. General fines have gone up from JD15-25 to JD100-200, while prison sentences have been stretched from 1-4 weeks to 1-3 months.

But every person who is responsible for a public area and who allows smoking or does not announce a ban on smoking is liable to a fine of JD1,000-3,000 or a term of imprisonment that is no less than three months and no more than six months. And the same penalties apply to those caught smoking in kindergartens, and private or public schools.

While acknowledging that MPs should not smoke inside the House, the head of the House’s Health and Environment Committee, Deputy Raed Hijazeen, noted that the ‘Dome’ was not considered a public area, but a place that was designated for lawmakers, ministers and those who were permitted to attend sessions.

“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, said Hijazeen, 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,” he added.

Category: Breaking News

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