Six weeks after a much-trumpeted law went into effect to bar smoking in numerous
outdoor public locations, the Israel Cancer Association and other smoking
cessation experts say it has largely been ignored and ineffective.
blame almost non-existent enforcement by the local authorities and the Health
Ministry’s failure to prepare regulations requiring signs at the forbidden
locations and hold long-term information campaigns to inform the non-smokers of
The country’s first-ever law of its kind prohibits lighting
up at outdoor swimming pools, train platforms, covered bus stops and central bus
stations, entertainment events and in private cars during driving
In addition, smoking is forbidden in outdoor restaurants, cafes
or anywhere else food and drink are served (unless these establishments decide
to allocate 15 square meters – but not more than a quarter of the outdoor space
– for smoking).
Staircases and passageways where people wait in shopping
centers must 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 is also prohibited, although small and isolated smoking
rooms are still permitted.
Smoking is not 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. All these
have been added to previous laws that prohibit smoking in the vast majority of
indoor public locations, including workplaces.
Smoking is still allowed
in sports stadiums due to lobbyist pressure on MKs, and taxi drivers whose
vehicles are empty of all passengers may still smoke in them.
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 warning sign they fail
The Jerusalem Post asked the Health Ministry on Tuesday for a
tally of fines handed out by municipal inspectors since May 9 when the new law
went into force, but no figures were supplied by Haim Geva-Haspil, the official
responsible for smoking issues in the ministry’s Public Health Department. He
said only that the next smoking report would be issued by the ministry next
year, 12 months after the last one in May.
No other statement was made on
whether the law has been effective and what suggestions Geva-Haspil had for
serious public health education and enforcement of the law.
whole of last year the total of fines collected by municipalities – and
sometimes hospitals, with their own inspectors – ranged from just one in
Tiberias – with 10 antismoking inspectors – to eight in Yavne – eight inspectors
– and seven in Ashdod – 13 inspectors.
In Herzliya 28 inspectors imposed
75 fines, in Jerusalem 85 inspectors gave out 443 and 2,501 fines were dealt in
Tel Aviv by 222 inspectors. A lone – and apparently very efficient and highly
motivated – smoking inspector in Holon handed out 123 fines.
Peleg-Olavsky, the ICA’s spokeswoman and public affairs officer, said that it
was a “full partner with the ministry in initiating and promoting the law to
prohibit smoking in outdoor – and other – pubic places. However, to our sorrow,
the law has been implemented only partially, and we have received many
complaints about lack of enforcement.”
The law’s implementation has been
accompanied by lack of clarity, as regards the general public, and whoever
encounters smokers in pubic places doesn’t know whom to complain to,” she
Decisions by the committee appointed by the ministry to decide on
locations where smoking would be prohibited were not always logical – for
example, smoking is prohibited at covered bus stations but not at those without
a roof, and forbidden at outdoor swimming pools, but not sports stadiums. This
is due to effective lobbying by tobacco interests and certain
Peleg-Olavsky called on the ministry to significantly boost
its publication of and information about the law, ensure the placement of signs
where smoking is now forbidden and tell the public where to complain about
In addition, she said, the local authorities must expand the
activity of their inspectors, who spend most of their time giving parking
tickets and other fines because they apparently prefer not to argue with
possibly violent or abusive smokers.
Amos Hausner, the attorney who
chairs the Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking, said the failure of
many places, such as the Kibbutz Ramat Rahel swimming pool south of Jerusalem,
to enforce the law is a “good marker to examine the effectiveness of a law
barring smoking in open places. This is because it is part of a sports center
that some years ago limited smoking to a “smokers’ corner,” but with its
cancellation by the law, there is a lot of smoking [all over].”
added that at train stations and bus stops, “the law is not felt in the field
except, perhaps, for some places during the first days after implementation. For
the law to take, the ministry must initiate a series of notices to swimming pool
owners via the Interior Ministry responsible for licensing and cancel licenses,
while it should tell Israel Railways via its management and the Transport
Ministry to ensure enforcement of the law,” he said.
There is also the
possibility of class-action suits against owners of premises that could lose
hundreds of thousands of shekels for failing to enforce the law.
criticized the Health Ministry for failing to update regulations that require
“no smoking” signs, whose absence makes it impossible to file
He added that the public service ads placed by the ministry
on radio for a week or so “initially created interest in the subject,” but the
campaign was much too short and limited and did not specify all the places where
smoking was prohibited and the size of the fines. It only referred listeners to
the ministry website.
Hausner said the public service message, which had
a man coughing and explaining that people bothered him by smoking in outdoor
public places, was not reasonable, “because most smokers do not avoid it because
of enforcement, so there was no believability to the ad. Creating an effect of
disgust at these violations would have been better,” he said.
Ministry Director-General Prof. Ronni Gamzu, who put his full weight
behind the passage of the law, even received a prize for his efforts at a
conference on cessation at Tel Aviv University.