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Page last updated at 12:22 GMT, Monday, 12 October 2009 13:22 UK

Assad decrees Syria smoking ban

Syrian cafe
Smoking, like traditional story telling, has been a feature of Syrian cafe life

Syria's president has issued a decree banning smoking inside cafes, restaurants and other public spaces.

The decree also outlaws smoking in educational institutions, health centres, sports halls, cinemas and theatres and on public transport.

Workers must not smoke during meetings and businesses need to provide well-ventilated areas for smokers.

The restrictions include the nargile, or hubble-bubble pipe, which is a favourite among locals and tourists.

The decree signed by President Bashar al-Assad, a qualified medical doctor, imposes a fine of at least 2,000 Syrian pounds ($46) on those who break the ban.

The Syrian government has passed several laws restricting smoking in the last two decades.

A decree in 1996 banned tobacco advertising while a 2006 law outlawed smoking on public transport and in some public places, introducing fines for offenders. Under-18s are not allowed to buy tobacco.

The World Health Organization is unable to provide details on tobacco consumption in Syria, but levels of smoking in public is high across the Arab world, especially among men.

Iraq's cabinet recently agreed a draft law outlining similar measures, causing uproar amongst smokers.



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