One order of Marlboro whites please..

There are just some things that I’ll never be able to get used to about the fact that you can order a pack of cigarettes at almost every restaurant and bar in the country..

I’m always amazed when I’m out with friends, and RIGHT after they finish eating, they order a pack of cigarettes (gross! especially after brunch!) , just like they’re ordering a soda refill..and even more amazed when establishments are fully stocked with every type, color, and strength of cigarette on the market.  (And if they aren’t (which is rare)..they quickly send an errand boy to the store to pick it up for the customer).

So much for restaurants and bars becoming non-smoking in Lebanon.  Not that I’m giving up on the thought outright.. It’s just that as time passes..and I spend more and more time in Lebanon, I’m becoming  more realistic about it.  (To this day, People still give me a strange look whenever I refuse a cigarette..come on dude..really?  You’re the one willingly inhaling smoke into your lungs!!).

There are just too many factors and stakeholders involved (the owner of the establishment, the tobacco company, the cigarette distributor, and last but definitely not least..the addicted smoker). ..and the habit is just too deeply ingrained into every aspect of Lebanese society!

Shame Shame Shame. *moves pointer finger back and forth in disapproval*

Smoking in Lebanon

Pictured: one order of Marlboro whites at Eau De Vie's Sunday Brunch

What’s next?  Will cigarettes start to be featured on menus?  *Scoffs*


Filed under life in Lebanon

28 responses to “One order of Marlboro whites please..

  1. Johnny

    1. Yes, it is way too engraved in our society and even in our culture, which is why I was really surprised that they were considering it to begin with.

    2. It’s impolite to waive your finger left and right like that, so stop it! 😛

    3. You will find cigarettes included on the menu at some restaurants… don’t say we didn’t warn you. 😉

    • I will do whatever I want with my pointer finger Johnny! (seriously tho, is it another one of those Lebanese hand gestures that really means something bad?)

      I just can’t believe how much cigarettes are a part of every aspect of Lebanese life. It’s..well..sad.

      • Johnny

        LoooLLL…. no it’s not, don’t worry about it, it’s actually not that common either, unless you see a mother doing it to her kid.

        And I know what you mean, that was actually the reason why I started smoking to begin with. Good thing’s that I quit now, and not planning on going back. 😉

  2. Sad but True. You have to match your customers’ requests, and even more, when it becomes an expectation… and who would dare be the first to displease his clients?!

    • But what about those clients you are alienating (like me) by accommodating those customers/clients who are smokers? It’s difficult to find a happy medium and please everyone I suppose. But I’m just getting to the point where I’m fed up of having to breathe in everyone else’s second hand bars, at restaurants, at nightclubs..It’s almost like I either have to stop going out altogether, or pick up the habit myself (which will never happen!)

  3. I’m glad my friends (most of them at least) don’t smoke… I never knew you could order cigarettes at restaurants :s

    Back when I was a wee little kid, I remember when people came over we had an assortment of cigarettes in a tray-just like you’d give chocolate or something to you guests… even though none of my family members used to smoke. It was a common thing.

  4. I get the same look every time I refuse a cigarette myself…
    Such a sad reality…
    I’ve been noticing the development of cigarette brands towards removing their logos (I actually worked on one) and slowly shifting to visual identity and BTL communication until this will be prohibited completely at a later stage.
    How long will it take for that to be implemented and the increase of the prices? I have no idea….and I think even this comes back to the Lebanese cultural factors and the fact that the majority smokes.

    • Just like with almost every other problem facing Lebanese society..there is a solution to curbing the population’s addiction to tobacco: Increases in pricing, banning of ATL advertising, banning smoking in public places, more awareness campaigns, etc etc..but it’s not being done! Why? Because the lobbies behind the tobacco companies are too powerful to allow this change to happen. Think how fat their pockets must be (which is directly related to their level of influence).. And as someone who works in the advertising and I both know that without tobacco companies..many advertising agencies will experience a substantial decrease in annual billings. And I’m sure that they are doing everything in their power to prevent that from happening!

  5. Citizen8

    I’ve lived a good part of my life outside of Lebanon, and the same goes (and still does) across countries such as Switzerland, France, etc. I was there only 2 weeks ago and my friends ordered cigarettes from the restaurants so they can go smoke outside.

  6. I don’t know if anyone told you before, but only until a few years back did the habit of having a tray of cigarette boxes in a tray stop (as if they were chocolate or candy). I remember as a kid, mom and everyone else I knew would bring out the packs from the fridge (at least 5 brands) , put them on a tray and would go around asking visitors if they would like any. Bearing in mind that neither one of my parents smoke:) It took alot of effort to start convincing them to stop it and that people would NOT assume they were being cheap 😀

    • Someone left a comment right before you and told me about this whole “passing cigarettes around on trays like they’re chocolates” phenomenon. I can’t believe it! You are the second person to say that your parents did this and didn’t even smoke themselves! I think that’s crazy..So for one night, and one night only, your family would allow people to smoke inside of their house?

      Oh, and I’ve never heard of cigarettes being kept in the fridge! That’s probably coz I’m not a smoker..but still! Did they finally stop doing it btw?

      • yes that was a long time ago, over 15 yrs ago 🙂 keeping them in the fridge apparently gave them longer life, since no one smokes, they would deteriorate and then we’d have to get a whole new supply regularly:D:D Now smoking is banned indoors:)

  7. Youssef Chaker

    oh man! the comments reminded of how we used to have a tray of different brands of cigarettes at my home and it was my job to pass the tray around for the ladies (mainly) to grab their favorite and light it up!!! I used to HATE it. How funny it is to see that others used to do the same. That is one Lebanese cultural habit im SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO glad we got rid of!!!

  8. The Lebanese are the most interesting people on earth…
    When government or activists seek to better their lives and makes things better… they retaliate like you are doing the exact opposite.
    They are so stubborn I have realized. We are stubborn, I am stubborn but about things to better the world and not worsen it.
    I’m shocked currently at how many people are against bringing down the sectarian system in Lebanon and looking for all the holes in the idea.
    It’s the same thing with cigarette laws, driving laws, marriage laws, anything. It’s insane.
    What they need are some MAJOR awareness campaigns.

    • Mariam, I am not “retaliating and doing the exact opposite..” I’m NOT smoker..I HATE cigarette smoke..and I’m getting to the point where I don’t even want to go out anymore because I don’t want to breathe in second hand smoke.

      I’m simply saying that it will be very unlikely if smoking is ever banned in Lebanon because of how deeply it is ingrained into Lebanese well as the amount of influence tobacco companies wield over many industries (advertising being one) and jobs.

  9. Don’t worry I got your point.. I’m saying the Lebanese treat it like you are working against them and not with them for their betterment. They can’t accept that people like you and I hate second-hand smoke. I, too, don’t want to die because of someone else’s decisions. That’s why the Lebanese are interesting. You want to make things better and instead they work against you. That’s why I ended it with MAJOR awareness campaigns. Maybe if they understand how many people they are killing while smoking, they’d stop.

  10. LaSahely

    totally agree with you!!! sad sad sad situation!!!!

  11. joseph

    We too had cigarettes-on-a-tray at home. It was almost compulsory to have a pack of Marlboro Reds and Kent in there.

    In the centre of the tray you would usually have a gross, stone-like cigarette lighter that was very heavy and always had to be refilled.

    Whenever guests would come over it was the job of one of the children to pass them around.

    On a side note, one thing I love about Lebanon is that you can smoke in a service and on the buses (like Beirut-Byblos).

  12. That is one thing that always drove me nuts growing up in Lebanon. And because my parents and everyone around me smoked so heavily I became a natural non-smoker. But true as Joseph said before me, there was always a tray of cigarettes and one of chocolates or sweets in every home when we grew up.
    My post from 2 days ago was about young kids in shanghai starting so so early, I was shocked to see them:
    Anyway, really enjoying your blog as always 🙂

  13. I want to thank you all for your comments..I wrote this post about one thing (being able to order cigarettes at a bar/restaurant) and instead, I opened up a topic about something else (how it used to be customary for young children to pass around a tray of different cigarettes at house parties). Your comments are what make this all worthwhile! I’m learning so much about this fascinating country and its customs.. Thank you! 😀

  14. Simon

    What bothers me the most is that somehow the smoker thinks it’s her/his God given right or an act of freedom to smoke anywhere and any time she/he wishes to do so!
    I’ve had countless arguments with friends who think it’s selfish of me asking them not to smoke at the table while i’m eating! It freaks me out that they see no wrong in doing so!
    @Youssef, mate u reminded when I too had to do those rounds with that cigarette tray, except whoever took one, my mum made them smoke it outside! hehehe

    • Youssef Chaker

      I use guilt to get people to stop smoking around me. I start coughing, waving with my hand to clear the air and then bring up my pseudo asthma i had when i was a kid (i didn’t really have it, i lie :P). And if that doesn’t work then i just walk away or whatever, something dramatic. What usually happens is that kind of scene sticks in people’s head, so they refrain from smoking around me. Common sense and logic rarely work. I tried the arguing and sensible discussions, found out that the emotional approach is much more effective. Give it a try 😛

  15. Paulina

    I am tired of people imposing their unhealthy, smelly addictions on others. Every time I visit Lebanon, I dread going out because why do I have to come back home smelling like an ashtray every time I step into a restaurant or club or bar only because smokers can’t seem to control their urge over the little white sticks. What right do they have to allow their habit to damage my health? Smoke yourself to death, that’s up to you but not causing problems to others, easiest way is to try the ban smoking in public places. My husband goes outside OUR home to smoke, and that’s respect and understanding for others..

  16. The worst case is when somebody lights up the cigarette inside taxi vehicles. If I am sitting next to the window and the weather is cold, I would be happy to open it completely and make the one sitting next to me freeze until he gives up and throws it out.

  17. Tchaveli Kassouf

    hahaha lets see my grandma averages at about 3 packs a day, my father at one point smoked 2 packs a day before having open-heart surgery at 45 and having to stop, same thing with my grandfather who smoked closer to 4 packs a day and then had to stop because of an open-heart. And then you have my aunts and uncles that also smoke cigarettes or are hooked on hookah (arguileh). You have some ppl who still cannot stop smoking even after serious health complications hahaha… I mean I am only 16, and even me myself I am a smoker hahaha oh Lebanese people:)

  18. L

    Update: Smoking is now banned indoors in public places in Lebanon 🙂

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