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Nicotine-Loving Iraqis Deride Smoking-Ban Plan

Haithen Abdul Hussain, who owns a tobacco store in upscale Karrada in central Baghdad, said he doubts the initiative will hurt business because it would be impossible to enforce in a country where smoking is so ingrained in social norms.

"All parliament members smoke," he exclaimed. "If they want to improve our health, maybe they should consider fixing our electricity first."

Sunni lawmaker Saleh al-Mutlak laughed when he heard about the bill. He said he quit smoking six months ago but doesn't think his constituents are ready to give up the privilege of lighting up anywhere they want.

"Banning smoking is a civilized phenomenon, but we are not in a psychological state and civilized situation that would justify that," he said. "The government has a wild imagination, and it is trying to delude the world into thinking that there are no problems left in the country other than smoking."

Iraqi Kurdish lawmaker Tanya Gilly, who supports the bill -- and doesn't smoke -- said it might be the one piece of legislation that unites opposite ends of the political spectrum in parliament. The more progressive, pro-Western blocks might support it for health reasons. And conservative Sunnis Muslims who deem smoking "haram," or forbidden under their interpretation of Islam, are also likely to get on board.

Special correspondents Aziz Alwan and Zaid Zabah contributed to this report.

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