Tuesday, July 27, 2010

9 Days to Go: Running out of time and Conditioner

By Ashley S. Westerman



I can’t believe that we only have 9 days until we leave Beirut and return home to the United States. It seems like just yesterday, I was eating my last “American meal” at Steak and Shake – fries, burger, banana/chocolate milkshake, yummy! – before boarding a plane bound for Istanbul. As mentioned in previous posts, around about the 1-month mark (July 17th for me since I came over about 2 and a half weeks earlier than the rest of my group), I was beginning to feel a little homesick. But now it seems as though the tides have turned and I am suddenly craving more days here in order to finish my Journalism project.

I would like to think that the reason I am playing some major catch-up on my project is because my original topic fell completely through due to lack of responses from potential interviewees and such. However, I do know that I could have done a little more to be more prepared for something like that to happen. Over the last week I have constructed a brand new project thanks to our lecture and visits to the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences.

My new story will be about the proposed Tobacco Control legislation that several notable organizations and institutions – including AUB and Lebanon’s Ministry of Public Health – are advocating for. The current law in Lebanon is the following (from the Ministry of Public Health’s National Tobacco Control Program):

“Tobacco control in Lebanon is currently limited at both policy and implementation levels.

Ministerial decision number 1/213 issued on 2/3/93 and law number 394/95 issued on 12/1/1995 relate to second-hand smoke, prohibiting smoking in hospitals, infirmaries, pharmacies, theaters, public transport services, health clubs, and all schools, universities and in the elevators.  However being ministerial decrees and not state legislation, there is no implementation mechanism for these decrees, therefore most infringements go unchecked by authorities.

Law number 394/95, which is an amendment of the decree number 101/83 issued on 16/9/1983, also stipulates the need for a label warning on all smoking packages including cigarettes and cigars, as well as warnings on smoking advertisement through the media. The warning should read as” The ministry of health warns you that tobacco use leads to dangerous and deadly diseases.” The law also requires that, in regards to televised advertisement, such a warning be present at all times during the advertisement time. Label area has to cover 15% of the main display area of a cigarette pack or advertisement, and writing should be in clear font, readable by the naked eye. Law number 394/95 also bans the distribution of free cigarettes or promotional material to all persons under the age of 18 years, whether at concerts, festivals or social gatherings, sports events, educational events or any other. However, as can be often witnessed, this aspect of the law is often broken by tobacco industry, without any consequence. Misleading terms such as “light”, “ultra-light” and “mild” are still being used with no legal deterrent. There are no legal requirements for the testing of tobacco products by health officials, nor on reporting of cigarette constituents by tobacco manufacturers, as well as no specified limits for nicotine or tar content.”

The new law has 3 major facets: The first being the banning of all tobacco advertisements (the US did this back in 1970 with the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act); the second promotion and sponsorship of pictoral warnings on tobacco packages; and the last is the banning of smoking in public places.

The last topic is the one I am most interested in and definitely the most striking difference. Especially having spent the last 4 years in Lexington where all in-door smoking is banned, coming into a place where smoking is allowed inside was a bit difficult. Not a regular smoker myself nor someone that regularly hangs out with a lot of smokers, I sometimes even forget people smoke at all because those who do must step outside to do it. I had some co-workers at Parks and Recreation that smoked but yet again, I rarely realized it because they were required to step outside to do it.

Another thing that I find interesting about this legislation is that it attacks the use of the nargileh or hookah/water pipe as well. Now, I don’t want to reveal all the goods parts of my story or anything but I have some across some information that proves that nargileh smoking is just as bad, if not worse, for a person to smoke than regular cigarettes. I am very interested to conduct these interviews I have set up for the coming week about this because I actually do enjoy smoking hookah every so often.

Yet again, as per usual, I think I have way to many sources but I think that too many is just enough. I simply CANNOT leave Beirut without securing all the information necessary to write the story because once I leave here…I’m out of luck.

In the following week I have an interviews set up with Dr. Rima Nakkash, AUB professor in the Faculty of Public Health and head of the Tobacco Control Research Group; Dr. Georges Saade, Tobacco Control Project Coordinator at the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health; and Dr. Jad Chaaban, professor and head of Tobacco Research at AUB’s Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences. I will also conduct some interviews with business owners whose businesses may (or may not) be effected if the legislation passes. I am very excited to talk to these people on this issue, even as a non-smoker. I think it will be very interesting to see how the world’s largest consumer of tobacco products per capita will deal with such legislation.

Lastly, project aside, I am officially running out of conditioner. This is a sad state of affairs for me considering I packed 8 bottles of my must-have Aussie conditioner and I am coming up on my very last bottle. They don’t sell Aussie here in Lebanon and they didn’t sell it in Turkey either. I sure hope it can last me until next Thursday. Perhaps I will shower less? LOL.

I’ll definitely miss the food and the city…but I’m ready to be home.

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