Armenian social media dazed by public tobacco ban, marijuana promotion rumor
A bill that would ban smoking in public places in Armenia has been high on the government’s agenda for several months now.
Lately, a rumor has been making the rounds on social media that the ban on smoking is being implemented so as to promote the use of marijuana.
JAMnews took a look at specifically what bans are proposed in the tobacco bill, what penalties violators of the law can expect, and just why certain social media circles think the purpose of the law is to bolster the support and popularity of marijuana in the country.
Rumors and denials
Rumors alleging that the tobacco ban is being put into place in order to pave the way for the introduction of marijuana elicited a very negative reaction from the public.
Health Minister Arsen Torosyan responded to the outcry on Facebook:
“[This is an attempt] at manipulating [the public] on the internet, [claiming that] tobacco would be banned in order to allow marijuana [to be legalized and sold]. They even [have the nerve to] rejoice in their lies.”
Torosyan also commented on rumors that smoking will be completely prohibited in Armenia:
“Nobody will forbid smoking entirely, despite the fact that this habit kills thousands of our citizens every year. Consumption of tobacco products will be limited only in closed public places in order to prevent this ‘slaughter’.”
Minister Torosyan appealed to individuals spreading rumors about the sale of drugs to “refrain from indulging in [their] overactive imaginations”.
“There is not and will never be any proposal for the sale, trafficking and use of drugs. If someone comes up with such an idea, I will prohibit it myself, since I am still a member of the government. I’m sure the whole government will do the same.”
Reaction on social media
Enthusiastic and active discussions followed Torosyan’s post – many social media users are for banning smoking in closed public places. Here are some of their comments:
“It would be better to ban smoking in open places too. All Yerevan is in smoke. You walk in the park with a child, and there is smoke all around you.”
“Well, [some people] do not like it when there are positive changes in the country.”
“Will anyone be punished for this garbage information? This tolerance for fake news could become dangerous!”
More than half of men are smokers
Armenia has the highest rates of smoking among men in European countries.
A study by the World Health Organization says that 51.5% of Armenian men smoke.
A year ago, the Government of Armenia published a bill restricting smoking in public places, and announced open discussions with the public. Many were annoyed that violators would be forced to pay heavy fines.
The amount of the fines will vary depending on where the smoker is found:
Elevator, cafe or office: 250,000 AMD ($520);
In a car: 50,000 ($104);
In a taxi or in public transport: 100,000 AMD ($208).
The bill stipulates that smoking will be allowed in specially designated places which should be properly equipped for smokers.
The new anti-smoking strategy, according to the authors, should reduce the number of smokers by 30-40%.