20 Jul 2010
What do the FIFA World Cup and smoking have in common?
Besides all of the football stadiums that went smoke-free this year in South Africa, Lebanese tobacco-free activists used the World Cup final match to help push their message outside the Lebanese parliament.
As the final football matched loomed, so too did the Lebanese government’s decision on a law to reduce tobacco usage.
To help the government with its decision, 10 activists from IndyACT (the League of Independent Journalists) played a peaceful ‘soccer match’ outside parliament to represent what was happening with the law.
The first football team represented international tobacco companies, the second represented the chamber of deputies while the ball represented the tobacco control law being discussed in parliament.
Seconds after the game started the referee raised the red card expelling the tobacco companies’ team because of its unethical infiltration and illegal blocking of the other team.
Viewers and fans (representing civil society, public health experts and academics) welcomed the move and chanted slogans like “complete smoking prevention in enclosed public places!” and “the Lebanese parliament, champion of the world in prohibiting smoking in enclosed public places!”
IndyACT executive director Wael Hmaidan said that tobacco companies were winning 1:0 because the current draft law does not prohibit smoking in enclosed public places – it only divides the spaces between smokers and non-smokers.
“This has been proved by experts to be dangerously ineffective and can’t be applied in Lebanon,” Hmaidan said.
Lebanon’s parliamentary committee on administration and justice is discussing the bill to reduce tobacco usage, and should reach a final decision in the next few weeks.
IndyACT and its allies, the American University of Beirut and Free Life Without Smoking, are working hard to ensure the law passes to protect Lebanon’s economy and its people’s health.