Justice Minister Tzipi Livni last week voted down, in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation that she chairs, a bill that would prohibit smoking in open stadiums.

The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – which it ratified in 2005 – urges signatories to halt smoking in outdoor public places, including sports facilities.

The bill, raised this time by Yesh Atid MK Adi Kol, aimed at including open sports stadiums in the list of places where outdoor smoking has been prohibited for the last year, as at railway, light rail and bus stations (with a roof).

Health Minister Yael German, who was also present in the committee, decided to appeal the decision in another meeting of the ministerial committee to be held on July 7. The Health Ministry has strongly backed the prohibition of smoking in public places, including sports stadiums.

Facing heavy opposition to the bill from Livni and other members of the ministerial committee, including Yisrael Beytenu MK Yair Shamir, Kol agreed to “compromise” by barring smoking from only some sections of outdoor sports stadiums and allowing it in other sections.

Livni explained in a post on her Facebook page this week that while she herself “stopped smoking two-and-a- half packets daily at 15.45 on May, 20, 1998,” she felt understanding for smokers and felt that “people who are addicted to tobacco should be given elbow room in open public spaces” so they could “release their tension.”

So that nonsmokers would “not be exposed” to clouds of smoke from the addicted, the justice minister suggested that some parts of the stadium could be smoke-free and others with seats for smokers.

Irit Shemesh, a tobacco-control activist, wrote back to Livni’s Facebook page voicing her anger over the justice minister’s decision to vote against Kol’s proposal.

“How can you vote against a bill aimed at preventing serious disease and death?” Shemesh asked. “I have nothing personal against smokers. Smoking is personal – as long as it remains that way and does not enter the public sphere, where it affects the health of other people.”

Shemesh added that having separate parts of open sports stadiums with and without smoking was impractical and unfair because the wind would blow the toxins to the nonsmokers.

Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking head Amos Hausner told The Jerusalem Post: “The whole world is increasingly prohibiting smoke in open public places. Must Israel oppose this, as if we were the primitive ones?” “Livni should not have voted as she did before checking and realizing that she was violating an international agreement ratified by Israel,” he said.

No comment was available from Livni’s personal spokeswoman, Maya Bengel.

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