Jordan has extended a ban on cigarettes in closed public spaces to all forms of smoking, citing the fight against COVID-19 in a country with one of the world’s highest smoking rates.
“In order to protect the health and safety of citizens, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, smoking of all forms (cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and shisha) is banned in closed public places,” the health ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
The World Health Organization has long ranked Jordan’s 10 million inhabitants among the world’s biggest smokers.
The Guardian last month published figures showing that the kingdom had surpassed Indonesia to have the highest smoking rates in the world, with more than eight out of 10 men regularly smoking or otherwise consuming nicotine.
Citing the WHO, the health ministry said that “smokers and passive smokers are more vulnerable to being infected by COVID-19, with stronger symptoms”.
Jordan has registered 1,133 cases of the COVID-19 illness, including nine deaths.
The kingdom introduced a cigarette ban in public places in 2008, but the new regulations cover electronic cigarettes and shisha waterpipes popular in the region.
However they only apply in “fully closed” public areas.
“The decision doesn’t bother me much because I don’t smoke arghileh (shisha) in closed places,” said waterpipe enthusiast Khaled al-Shamhuri.
“The smoking ban in public places is old but wasn’t enforced.”
Coffee shop employee Hassan al-Shadfan said the new rules would “negatively affect us”.
“The cafe is a closed space and most clients don’t just come to eat or drink tea and coffee, most smoke arghileh,” he said.
But Ahmad Rubbaa, owner of a cafeteria selling cigarettes, was less concerned.
“A smoker is a smoker wherever they are, no law can stop them,” he said.
“I don’t think this will affect tobacco sales.”