Although the Health Ministry got a law passed 14 months ago to bar smoking along
the platforms of the capital’s open-air light-rail stations – with each
cigarette smoked worth a NIS 1,000 fine – the Jerusalem Municipality hasn’t
issued a single fine for such violations since then.
In addition, the
ministry’s regulations also prohibit smoking at all covered bus stations around
the country, yet ministry officials haven’t required municipalities to post
signs at each station stating that smoking is prohibited and making clear where
violators are liable to be fined.
Observers at any of the lightrail
stations can at any time see many cigarette butts strewn with discarded fare
receipts on the pavement.
The ministry itself estimates that 10,000
Israelis die of smoking each year – 1,000 of them nonsmokers exposed passively
to the smoke of others. Nearly 80 percent of Israelis do not smoke.
the annual press conference presenting the No-Smoking Report required by law to
be released by the health minister, ministry director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu
regularly bemoans the fact that the laws are inadequately enforced.
July 2012, Gamzu proudly announced that the law to bar smoking at covered bus
stations and at light-rail stations had gone into effect. But since then, the
ministry has failed to instruct the country’s local authorities, which have not
been given instructions to put up signs at bus stations.
there has been no enforcement by the Jerusalem Municipality of the law regarding
the light rail.
Asked by The Jerusalem Post why the municipality does not
enforce the law barring smoking at the train stations, Mayor Nir Barkat’s city
spokesman said: “The Jerusalem Municipality enforces laws restricting smoking
via municipal inspectors around the city. They carry out inspections in places
where very large concentrations of people are, in order to enforce the
“Since the no-smoking law – which was expanded to include new public
space such as the light rail’s stations, bus stations and the like – came into
effect only during the last year, the city prosecutors together with municipal
inspectors acted to prepare directives for expanding enforcement, and currently
activities are being held to internalize them and apply them in the
Asked why the light rail’s security staff have not been
instructed to hand out fines to violators they could catch redhanded along the
lengths of the stations, the city spokesman refused to comment.
personal letter from this reporter to Barkat was received in June but not
The last No-Smoking Report published the fact that the
Jerusalem Municipality inspectors handed out a daily average of only three NIS
1,000 tickets (NIS 5,000 for owners of public premises who don’t enforce the law
on their property) in the city – even though municipal inspectors in Tel Aviv,
with one-third the population – gave out twice as many.
Railways broadcasts oral warnings at its own stations that it is forbidden to
smoke while waiting for the train (except for designated smoking-permitted areas
at the ends of each train), CityPass has not been instructed by the Jerusalem
Municipality to broadcast such announcements at its stations, even though it
does warn when each train arrives not to leave personal objects there or in the
When the ministry was asked to comment on the failure to enforce
the no-smoking laws at the light rail, Haim Geva- Haspil – its official in
charge of smoking matters – maintained that “the stations are part of the
sidewalk and not defined as a separate entity. It is difficult to define where
smoking is allowed, but the prohibition is relatively clear – only on benches
where people sit under a roof.
“It is the municipality that is
responsible for enforcement and that collects the money for its use. The Health
Ministry’s supervision and enforcement branch works in coordination with the
Jerusalem Municipality to improve enforcement.”
However, Amos Hausner –
the legal expert and initiator behind all no-smoking legislation in the country
in the last 30 years and chairman of the Israel Council for the Prevention of
Smoking – told the Post that Geva-Haspil’s interpretation of the law was
The law uses the term “station,” which means
anywhere the rail cars stop and take on passengers through many doors, not only
where a handful of people wait under a roof for the train, just a few meters on
Hausner added that it was “very sad and serious that the
ministry and the municipality have not enforced the laws, as citizens learn it
is legitimate to ignore laws.”
Hausner has just presented a request to a
court to recognize as a class-action suit a NIS 11 million lawsuit he and
attorney Amiram Sever have prepared against an outdoor Ness Ziona wedding
establishment where the owners did not prohibit smoking, in violation of the
July 2012 law.
Sever complained to the ownership, who told him to be
quiet because he was “disturbing” party-goers.
Hausner won a case some
months ago in a class-action suit against a Tel Aviv club called Bella Shlomkin,
whose owners were fined an unprecedented NIS 1.16m. for failing to prohibit
smoking inside the club.
“It’s a shame that, due to poor supervision, we
have to involve the courts for classaction suits. The Supreme Court has already
said that laws prohibiting smoking in public places, including outdoor
locations, are important,” Hausner noted.
Told by the Post that Hausner
was convinced Geva-Hospil’s interpretation of light-rail prohibitions were
wrong, the ministry’s official in charge of smoking issues admitted he was not a
lawyer and had not consulted with the ministry’s legal adviser before writing
his official comment.
“I will check with them, and if Amos Hausner’s
statement is correct, we will ask the Jerusalem Municipality to take action to
enforce the law. We will change the regulations if we have to,” Geva-Haspil