Afghanistan bans public smokingOn Monday 6th January 2014, Afghan parliament passed a series of anti-smoking measures in a concerted effort to try to eradicate the widespread health hazard of smoking, as well as alleviating non-smokers from this public nuisance. The introduction of new legislature will ban smoking and the use of tobacco in public buildings such as hospitals, schools and restaurants.

These measures have been put into effect immediately. As such anyone who is now seen in public smoking or chewing tobacco will be fined upwards of AFN300. Furthermore, any perpetrators caught selling tobacco in public areas will be fined between 5-25 thousand AFN.Moreover, the import duty on tobacco will also be increased by fifty percent and the sale of cigarettes to children will now be regarded as a criminal offence.

The legislation will also seek to tackle smoking advertisements. Lawmakers have consulted with the media regarding the implementation of widespread anti-smoking campaigns across their national advertisements.Mujib Rahman Samkanai, a member of Health Commission, emphasised to the need for cigarette and tobacco advertisements to be banned and for free advertisements against smoking and other intoxicants to be widely publicised on national television channels.

The passing of this legislation suggests an evolution of previous Afghan attitudes towards smoking. In a previous assembly with the same anti-smoking ambitions, parliament were unable to pass the draft due to a lack of support from members. Significantly, this time round, the draft succeeded with a staggering majority; out of the 125 total members, 99 voted for the draft whilst 24 still opposed it. This radical change in opinion shows that the country is gradually aligning itself with the legislation of other anti-smoking nations, as it re-evaluates its attitudes toward smoking and the role of tobacco within Afghan life. Speaking on the matter, certain lawmakers stated; “According to the Islamic laws using tobacco is Haram prohibited and its use should be banned even in areas not termed as public”.

Tobacco is beginning to be regarded in the same category as intoxicants and narcotics. This view is reinforced by the fact that the legislation passed contains twenty articles in five chapters, all of which are in accordance with current constitutional laws which ask the government to prevent narcotics and intoxicants.

Although there are no official figures categorising how many Afghans smoke, unscientific observations suggest approximately 50% of Afghan men have smoked tobacco at some stage during their lives. Therefore this legislation is bound to affect a large proportion of the population andcause them to re-evaluate their views on smoking.

However, the issue of smoking still remains a contentious issue amongst lawmakers, who have disagreed regarding what future measures need to be taken.Obaidullah Ramin, a lawmaker from Baghlan province, stated that tomore effectively discourage the consumption of cigarette and tobacco, tax should be raised by 100 percent. In stark contrast, Gulalai Noor Safi, a lawmaker representing Balkh province, stressedthat any further increase in tax will be detrimental, and will only strengthen drug smuggling operations from Pakistan and Iran.

Nevertheless, this new legislation historically marks a growing change in attitudes towards the public use of tobacco in Afghanistan. In the next few months, the extent to which these measures are effectivewill become evident. Public reaction to these new laws will illustrate whether more extensive legislation needs to be passed to alleviate any remaining public issues regarding tobacco.

Author This article was produced by Bradley Taylor, a freelance writer from Derby, England, UK. Bradley is a motoring enthusiast who loves writing about cars and anything automotive but he is versatile and he also writes across a variety of other topics. You can stay connected with him on Google+ and follow him on Twitter.