Lawyer Amos Hausner..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Knesset Constitution and Law Committee on Wednesday significantly raised a number of fines collected by the Treasury, including one relating to cigarettes. Anyone caught selling cigarettes individually or in very small (non-standardized) packets will be subject to a NIS 4,000 fine.
Selling single cigarettes or a few at a time is known to take place in kiosks and grocery stores and target children, even though it is illegal to sell cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18 In the last few years, state efforts to prevent illegal smoking and enforce existing laws have had very little impact, according to lawyer Amos Hausner, head of the Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking.
He told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that “80 percent of the public don’t smoke. But the Health Ministry has failed to create an atmosphere that discourages smokers from lighting up in public areas and owners of premises to enforce no-smoking laws, even though that is their obligation and interest.
“The state doesn’t invest at all in smoking prevention. The ministry must demand tens of millions of shekels from the Treasury for education, anti-smoking advertisements, and enforcement.
Hausner, who is the father of most legislation for the prevention of smoking in public places, added: “Tobacco companies, according to Israeli government figures, spend NIS 58 million a year for cigarette advertising.
“As for the public atmosphere, when people tried to smoke illegally in buses and theaters in the 1980s, the majority insisted that they do not. Today, in places like wedding halls, pubs and at Jerusalem Light Rail stations, this doesn’t happen anymore, because of the lack of an atmosphere for clean air and enforcement of the law.”
In addition, said Hausner, there is no effective mechanism for people to achieve the no-smoking goal. The Supreme Court ruled that smoking entitles those exposed to receive significant compensation, but unfortunately, many people are not aware of this possibility.
It is well known that in most wedding halls, the air is full of toxic smoke.
Hausner said that “most guests would yell if they found a cockroach in their salad. But they don’t complain about illegal smoking.”
As October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month around the world, the lawyer said that passive (secondhand) smoking has for years been known as a major cause of breast cancer. The breast cancer rate among Arab women, for example, is considerably higher than among Jewish women; so many Arab men – husbands – smoke at the highest rates in the country.
“If men realized that smoking near their wives can cause them to get breast cancer and have to undergo surgery and even die, they would not do it,” he declared.
Today, there is hardly any educational campaign by the Health Ministry against smoking, Hausner continued.
US government annual smoking prevention efforts spend tens of millions of dollars from the $246 billion settlement with the tobacco industry for causing huge damage to public health.
“But Israel spends nothing for this purpose,” said Hausner. “The government should sue the tobacco industry here as well, to collect billions of shekels.”