An Iraqi Smoking Ban: Where Can GIs Light Up?

Iraq's cabinet approved new anti-smoking legislation. The law bans smoking in public spaces, marketing of tobacco, and Iraqis under age 18 from buying and smoking cigarettes. It's a bold yet laudatory act, given the prevalence of tobacco in the country:

Smoking is widespread in Iraq, with a packet of cigarettes costing only around 500 dinars and cafes providing "sheesha", as water pipes with flavoured tobacco are known, popular in cities and towns.

More than 41 percent of Iraqi men and nearly seven percent of women are smokers, according to the World Health Organisation.

This move recalls similar anti-smoking bans enacted at both the federal and state levels in the United States. American smokers who called such legislation "anti-democratic" might find this undertaking by the Iraqi cabinet ironic: after all, the current legislative body is a product of the ongoing Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The high-percentage of Iraqi smokers indicates that this new law will be a lifestyle disruption for much of the population. What remains unclear, however, is how it will affect the cigarette-smoking American soldier.  

A 2008 story on NPR gives the estimate that over two-thirds of the soldiers stationed in Iraq light up on a regular basis (other studies instead estimate one-third of soldiers--still a higher percentage than that found among civilian Americans). Since American soldiers in Iraq cannot smoke inside base buildings, the new Iraqi law presumably further limits their smoking space. Though there is no disputing the long-term negative effects of tobacco use, it is also true that many soldiers rely on cigarettes for stress-relief. Given the upward trend in military suicides, this encroachment on smoking space provokes concern.

And this is not an issue that will be disappearing soon: a few weeks ago the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs urged the Defense Department to enact anti-smoking laws within the armed services:

...a complete ban on tobacco, which would end tobacco sales on military bases and prohibit smoking by anyone in uniform, not even combat troops in the thick of battle.
Presented by

Kerry Golds

Kerry Golds is an intern in the editorial and art/production departments of The Atlantic magazine. She lives in Rosslyn, VA.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Confessions of Moms Around the World

A global look at the hardest and best job ever

Video

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open for 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

More in Politics

Just In