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Three-quarters of Israeli adults favor the complete prohibition of smoking in all restaurants and cafes. At present, a 1983 law requires that if smoking is allowed, it must be in a totally separate, ventilated room - but this is rarely enforced by authorities.
According to a Motagim poll conducted for the Israel Cancer Association (ICA) among a representative sample of 504 adults (with a four percent margin of error), Jerusalemites are even more adamant against smoking in eating places than the average Israeli: Eighty-nine percent of them want to bar smoking in such establishments.
The lowest support rate, 67%, was in the North, followed by 70% in the South, 75% in the Sharon region and 78% in the Dan region. Those queried by phone were asked if they favored a law such as those put into effect in Ireland, New York and Britain, barring smoking in all food-serving establishments.
The ICA's information director, Nava Inbar, said that the law was meant to protect the 76% of Israelis who don't smoke. Smoking in theaters, elevators, taxis and buses has almost disappeared, but has remained in eating places. "We must not forget that restaurants and cafes are also workplaces for many people who are exposed to smoke against their will," said Inbar. It is unthinkable that the 24% of the public who smoke should be allowed to expose 76% of the public who don't to secondhand smoke."
ICA chairman Prof. Eliezer Robinson recently contracted Adi Eldar, head of the Center for Local Authorities, asking him to tell its city mayors to enforce the law, as it is the responsibility of local authorities to fine violators of the no-smoking laws. Robinson said he hoped the new public opinion survey would strengthen the hands of mayors and council heads in carrying out their duty.
The ICA and other anti-smoking groups are pushing for an amendment to the 1983 law that would set a stiff fine on proprietors of establishments where there is smoking against the law. In Ireland, for example, there is a 1,000 euro fine on proprietors as well as on smokers. In Israel, there is a NIS 320 fine only on smokers who violate the law.
Meanwhile, the University of Haifa said Sunday that according to new research, children of adults who smoke are more likely to be overweight and suffer from obesity. The results of the study, which was conducted by Dr. Michael Huarta of Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, will be presented at a public health conference, organized by Dr. Ehud Miron of Haifa U.'s School of Public Health, held on campus later this week.
The study looked at the body-mass index of 8,000 children aged eight to 13 and whether or not their parents smoked. Huarta's team found that children with at least one parent who smoked were more likely to be overweight, while those with two smoking parents were 1.4 times more likely to be overweight than those whose parents abstained. Parents who indulge in behavior that endangers their health, such as smoking, are likely to indulge in other harmful behaviors, including following an unhealthy diet.
"Smokers should understand that they are harming not only themselves but also their children," Huarta said, and added that similar findings were found in studies in Germany and Hong Kong.