Just days after hundreds gathered in downtown Baghdad to demand better services and jobs from their government, the Iraqi parliament sat to consider a ban on smoking in many public places. The measure would also force companies to print harsher warning labels, not unlike efforts in many Western countries.
The bill, first introduced and subsequently dropped in 2009, seems to be particularly out of step with the desires of Iraqis, who can buy a pack for just 25 cents. “I don’t think you could overstate how many people smoke in Iraq,” says Jason Whiteley, a 34-year-old soldier from Houston, Texas, who spent a year in Iraq working in governance. “Every 10 metres there’s a fold-out table with people selling cigarettes.” Surely car bombs, regular power outages and widespread unemployment are more pressing.“The Iraqi hierarchy of needs hasn’t yet reached the point where they are talking about luxury regulations like this,” Whiteley told Maclean’s. “It seems like a bit of a reach that it’s an Iraqi idea. It smells a little bit colonial, to be honest.”