On Wednesday, the country’s first-ever laws to bar smoking in certain outdoor locations will come into effect, making it illegal to light up at outdoor swimming pools, train platforms and entertainment events.
The new outdoor locations where smoking will be barred from Wednesday also include passenger-less buses and trains such as the Jerusalem Light Rail; central bus stations; private cars for driving lessons; and outdoor restaurants, cafes or anywhere else food and drink are served.
However, an establishment may allocate 15 square meters – but not more than a quarter of the outdoor space – for smoking, even though the wind can easily blow the smoke into the faces of non-smokers. In addition, taxi drivers whose vehicles are empty of all passengers may still smoke in them.
The Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee decided that smoking at outdoor stadiums will be allowed now but maybe not later.
Staircases and passageways where people wait in shopping centers will also be smoke free.
In government buildings, even people who work alone in their offices may not smoke.
Smoking in outdoor event facilities such as wedding halls will also be prohibited, although small smoking areas there will be permitted. Smoking will not be allowed in synagogues, churches and mosques; bomb shelters; community centers and youth movement meeting places; and old age homes except for private rooms occupied only by smokers.
But as the Health Ministry committee’s location choices were not always logical – for example, smoking will be barred at covered bus stations but not those without a roof over passengers’ heads – the public is likely to be confused.
When the Knesset passed legislation two months ago, the Health Ministry promised that it would prepare citizens in advance of enactment with a major publicity campaign, but it has not done so to date. A campaign only on the radio and the Internet will begin “in a few days,” public health chief Prof. Itamar Grotto told The Jerusalem Post.
In addition, the ministry failed to issue regulations ensuring that signs are posted at the new forbidden locations.
In Hong Kong, by comparison, public outdoor spots where smoking is prohibited are marked prominently on sidewalks, and parks have signs on the trees.
Meanwhile, Hadassah Medical Organization director-general Prof. Ehud Kokia announced that in three years, its huge campus in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem will become the first in the country to bar tobacco completely indoors and outdoors.
Already, the outdoor Ben-Gurion Square near the entrance to the Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem has been declared “smoke free.”
Prof. Eran Leitersdorf, dean of the Hebrew University Medical Faculty, added that five such signs have been posted around the square, and that he and other caring colleagues have been seen since May running down from their offices to inform violators and ask them to put out their cigarettes.
Kokia, speaking at a conference on “Smoking Cessation Through the Use of Modern Media,” said Monday that in 2000, the Ein Kerem medical center was the first in Israel to voluntarily declare the hospital smoke free – even before legislation made all hospitals so. In three years, it will be the first to boast no smoking anywhere outdoors as well, as befit a leading medical institution in healthcare, teaching and research.
Professionals speaking at the conference criticized the Health Ministry for not opening a telephone “quitline” to help smokers kick the habit.
Maccabi Health Services established the only such quitline in Israel in 2009. In the European Union and the US, all quitlines are government-funded.
Health Ministry public relations head Yair Amikam commented that the idea of quitlines has “seriously been examined by the ministry. The topic is very complicated with many implications, budgetary and otherwise, and the ministry will formulate its position at the end of its examination.”
Nurses and visitors could be seen yesterday smoking very close to the entrances of the Hadassah hospital, even though it will be illegal starting Wednesday morning for anyone to smoke within 10 meters of the entrances or exits to any hospital or health fund facility. But the HMO spokeswoman promised that when the new law is enacted, no-smoking signs will be posted outdoors, and hospital inspectors will be ready to hand out fines.
The rather-uneven and confusing selection of no-smoking locations was made by a ministry committee established by order of the Knesset Control Committee – then headed by MK Yoel Hasson – which insisted on the renewal of the longinactive Gillon Committee appointed in 1999 to recommend how to reduce smoking in Israel.
Amos Hausner, the head of the Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking, said that the new laws “are far from ideal and better than nothing. And there should be better enforcement of the laws. Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee chairman Haim Katz himself said the list was not the final word.”
For example, a bill to bar smoking in the public areas of cooperative apartment buildings that was initiated by Economic Affairs Committee chairman Carmel Shama has been okayed on its preliminary reading, Hausner said.
The fine for an individual smoking violation is NIS 1,000, while owners of premises can be fined NIS 5,000 per violation plus NIS 1,000 for each missing sign.
A feature on the Hadassah conference on the use of modern media to promote smoking cessation will appear on the Health Page on Sunday, July 22.