The Health Ministry, which pushed through the Knesset an amendment that since
last July totally prohibits smoking in all government buildings, has been
violating the law since hundreds of Jerusalem staffers started moving into its
new headquarters in the Romema quarter a week ago.
By walking up 13
floors of the ministry’s internal staircase and then down to the bottom again on
Sunday afternoon, The Jerusalem Post not only found not a single “No Smoking”
sign but counted 92 cigarette butts and half-a-dozen packets of Hebrew-lettered
cigarettes from the entrance until the floor where Deputy Health Minister
Ya’acov Litzman sits.
These were evident even though the law bars smoking
inside all government buildings.
Litzman and his director-general, Prof.
Ronni Gamzu, pooh-poohed the evidence and said the cigarette butts were
apparently “left by foreign workers, not by our employees.” But according to the
Knesset law, even foreign workers and not only staffers and visitors to the
building are forbidden to smoke.
When the Post asked Gamzu whether the
ministry had asked the Civil Service Commission to issue reminders to all
government offices that smoking rooms and smoking on the staircases were barred
by the law and set down punishments, the director-general said that inspectors
would catch violators in the act and ensure they get fined. “We will not
allow smoking here,” he said.
Gamzu said that some ministry staffers had
even come to him and asked that he set up smoking-cessation courses for them.
Over the years, numerous ministry staffers – even security guards – at its
previous headquarters in San Simon-quarter apartment buildings had been seen
smoking in their offices, on the staircases and at the entrances.
said he knew well that no smoking rooms are allowed in his ministry and that the
only place people could legally smoke was outside the building – which would
mean individuals would have to go into the building accompanied by smoke. He
conceded he didn’t like the idea of such a scene at a ministry whose task it is
to fight smoking.
The 2012 amendment also prohibits smoking at outdoor
swimming pools, at bus and train stations and other public places, but it is not
properly enforced because the ministry has still not issued regulations on
posting signs and other details for implementing the law.
comment about enforcing the law, prominent lawyer Amos Hausner – head of the
Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking – told the Post
that Gamzu in fact
had a “much easier way” to enforce the law than calling in
“The ministry must ask the Civil Service Commissioner to
declare that smoking in all government buildings is a disciplinary violation,
allowing it to lower the rank of any civil servant who has violated the law,
deduct fines from his salary and even fire him,” Hausner stated.
continued that when the late prime minister and incessant smoker Yitzhak Rabin
lit up during cabinet meetings, the Civil Service Commissioner in 1994 ordered
him to stop, and since then, no one has dared to light up up during cabinet
If a building contractor’s workers might smoke while working on
the building, said Hausner, Gamzu should have required the contractor to
prohibit their smoking and to post graphic “No Smoking” signs there. The foreign
workers and their bosses wouldn’t dare violate conditions of the contract at
risk of being punished, the lawyer continued.
Hausner said that, around
the world, smoking rooms in public and private buildings are disappearing and
that Israel’s Civil Service Commission must see to it that the laws are
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