Friday, August 7, 2009

Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Unless You're in Baghdad.

So apparently with all of the problems facing Iraq, an important piece of legislation that Maliki is pursuing is to ban smoking in public places. For those of you who have spent any time on the ground in Iraq, smoking is huge there. People smoke everywhere. One of the most important parts of negotiating at the tactical level (company/field grade officers with local leaders) in my experience was the trading of cigarettes prior to the meeting. You talked about your families and the weather and enjoyed one of the few vices allowed in the country (while alcohol is not specifically banned and is actually widely used in Iraq, it is all behind closed doors for fear of retaliation from extremists).

It also seems to be oddly timed. I appreciate the sentiment of improving the public's health, but it's something the people in general enjoy and it's not like the massive public healthcare system is being overburdened by cancer treatments (yet). By that I mean they don't really treat cancer at all, so it's not currently costing the Iraqi government anything. As opposed to, say, people getting blown up, drilled, or shot. Or maybe the petroleum law, disposition of Kirkuk, reintegration of the Sons of Iraq into the government fold, disarmament of private militias, etc, etc, etc.

Here's hoping they bring back the Sumers - at least they were made more of paper than tobacco. Maybe the parliament will debate it over a couple cartons of Miamis.

8 comments:

  1. Sumers! Wow, that brought back some memories.

    How about Pines?


    SNLII

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  2. Pines were alright but expensive by comparison. You just couldn't beat 25 cents a pack for the Sumers. Or less in some areas. Especially considering you couldn't just go to finance and get a casual pay in those days (to say nothing of "Eagle Cards").

    You just have to love government manufactured cigarettes.

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  3. I seem to recall, from Rajiv Chandrasekaran's excellent "Imperial Life in the Emerald City", that the smoking ban was one of the very first measures that the CPA-led Ministry of Health had decided to take, in a country that at the time (2003-2005) had almost no functioning hospitals or health services. Chandrasekaran mentioned it as an example of the CPA's seriously misguided (that's an understatement) sense of priorities.

    What makes them revive this old smoking ban project these days? Could it be that the health sector is now such a flourishing success that they have nothing else to focus on?..

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  4. You are correct, Alma.

    And as a side note, Turkey just adopted the same policy, with some saying it was because of health, and others for theological concerns.

    If I recall, a man was shot to death over the issue in Istanbul.

    SNLII

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  5. And without being pedantic, Gunslinger, Iraq's Ministry of Health actually is responsible for treating cancer. It falls under the Second Deputy's list of responsibilties.

    Lung cancer is the second most prevalent form of cancer in Iraq. More people die of cancer every year in Iraq than from violence, a point driven home when USAID signed its MOU with the MOH (had to do that) last year to complete the reformation of Iraq's medical system.

    SNLII

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  6. I don't doubt that at all. And I'm sure the DU, sand, and pollution aren't helping either. But you know as well I do that if you want to survive cancer you go to Jordan.

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  7. The whole debate of banning smoking in Turkey has been going on for years, long before the AKP party took power. It always strikes me how every time the AKP supports legislation which coincides with a more puritan understanding of Islam, everyone jumps to saying, "Here's the AKP again pushing for an increasingly fundamentalist agenda!"

    I guess this should be expected though.

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  8. Does this count for all tobacco, or just cigarettes?
    When tht UK tobacco ban came in, the arab cafes tried to get an exemption for nargileh/hookah.
    They didnt succeed...

    As for cigarette names - I don't think you can beat "Sportsman" in Kenya. Surely they dont have negative health effects?

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