Kazakhstan has extended its smoking ban by prohibiting the use of the shisha pipe in enclosed public spaces including bars, nightclubs and restaurants.
The ban came into force on March 14, sparking an outcry among entrepreneurs warning of widespread job losses.
According to the calculations of the Association of Shisha Pipe Industry Entrepreneurs of Kazakhstan, reported by Bnews.kz on April 1, up to 20,000 jobs stand to be lost since each of the 5,000 premises where the shisha is smoked employs three or four people to clean and light the pipes.
The pipes are hugely popular in bars and restaurants in Astana, Almaty and other cities. One pipe, which is shared by groups of friends out socializing, costs around $30-$50. Establishments breaking the new rules face fines of just over $1,100.
Shisha – also known as kalyan or hooka – pipes had been exempt from a smoking ban in enclosed spaces introduced in 2009, when officials said some 30,000 people per year were dying from tobacco-related diseases. Implementation is patchy, with most establishments respecting the ban but some openly flouting it.
According to a World Bank report published in 2010, 40 percent of male adults in Kazakhstan smoke – fewer than Russia’s 59 percent, but almost double the 22 percent smoking in neighboring Uzbekistan.
Fresh polling statistics released by Kazakhstan’s Health Ministry in March show that just over a quarter of Kazakhs of both sexes – 26.5 percent – smoke.
On March 29 the Novosti-Kazakhstan news agency quoted the Health Ministry as saying cancer is the second biggest killer in Kazakhstan, and lung cancer is the top killer in terms of deaths caused by malignant tumors.
According to research released in 2011 by the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation, in Kazakhstan tobacco was responsible for over a third (34.7 percent) of male deaths and 11.9 percent of female deaths in 2004 (the latest data available).
On April 20 the government is expected to introduce a bill tightening anti-smoking legislation. Cigarettes remain cheap in Kazakhstan, despite the government last year raising the minimum retail price by 30 percent to 90-100 tenge per pack (around 55-65 cents, depending on the filter length).