A Ukrainian female traveler went nude on Saturday at Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport to protest smoking ban in all closed public spaces, according to media reports.
MTV website reported that the traveler removed her clothes and held a sign calling for lifting the ban on smoking inside the airport. The incident caused commotion among travelers and prompted airport security to arrest her.
Egypt’s Gate Al Ahram also reported the incident quoting airport security sources. But in a phone call with a general security official, he refused to confirm or deny the incident.
A picture circulated on social media showed the alleged woman approached by Lebanese security forces.
In a country considered a “smokers’ paradise,” the law took effect a year ago in airports, hospitals and schools, but took hold on a wider basis in September 2012, also banning tobacco advertisements criticized for luring youths into the habit, according to a report by AFP.
Smokers caught lighting up in a closed public space face a $90 penalty, while restaurant or cafe owners who turn a blind eye to offenders could be fined anything from $900 to $2,700, AFP reported.
The number of smokers in Lebanon is among the highest in the region and cancer-related illnesses directly linked to tobacco are rising at a rapid rate, health professionals say.
Still, there is speculation as to how far the new ban can actually hold in a country where cigarette, cigar and nargileh (water-pipe) smoking is so popular and widespread.
Several other countries in the Middle East have adopted anti-tobacco laws, but their enforcement has proven often difficult as smoking, especially of the nargileh, is hugely popular.