DAMASCUS - Smokers in Syria burn up about 600 million dollars on tobacco and cigarettes each year, despite a ban on advertising and smoking in public, according to statistics published on Monday.
"Smokers annually spend about 26 billion Syrian pounds (600 million dollars)," the state news agency SANA said, quoting a report by an official Syrian tobacco institution.
"Each smoker spends about eight percent of his income to buy 3.6 kilogrammes (about eight pounds) of tobacco," it said.
The number of smokers in the Middle Eastern country has gone up by 15 percent, it said without elaborating, despite government attempts to counter the trend.
SANA said up to 60 percent of men and 24 percent of women still light up in Syria, which has a population approaching 20 million and where nargileh, or water pipes, are becoming increasingly popular.
A law came into force in 2006 banning smoking in public places and on public transport, and a year ago Syria introduced a ban on tobacco sales to those under the age of 19.