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Tobacco vending machines to be outlawed in Israel next month
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
08/12/2013
Health Ministry is carrying out its obligation regarding vending machines to the World Health Organization.
 
Starting January 1, the sale of cigarettes from indoor and outdoor vending machines will be outlawed throughout the country. The Health Ministry is working towards enforcing the law, which was originally passed in August 2011 but whose implementation was postponed until the beginning of 2014 because the vending companies said they “needed time to adjust,” The Jerusalem Post has learned.

By prohibiting the sale of cigarettes to adults and to minors – who by law are not allowed to purchase cigarettes – the ministry thus carries out its obligation regarding vending machines to the World Health Organization, whose Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) it approved and then ratified.

The FCTC is the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO and aims to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke by providing a framework for tobacco control measures.

Those who sign and and ratify the FCTC are supposed to implement its guidelines at national, regional and international levels.

Israel ratified it in August 2005, becoming the 77th country to do so. By March 2012, 174 countries had ratified it. Due to the strong tobacco lobby in the US, that country has not yet approved the FCTC.

But Israel and the ministry have not implemented all the FCTC’s provisions, including a regulation that would require all cigarette packages to be sold in plain packages with graphic images of dirty, nicotine-stained teeth or decayed lungs, for example, which would deter young people from smoking.

Even existing laws are not enforced properly in Israel, including the ban on selling single cigarettes so that children cannot get them cheaply and the failure to prevent smoking at covered bus stops and at light rail stations in Jerusalem.

The vending machine owners appealed to the High Court of Justice against the law, but the court rejected their arguments and insisted that the law banning cigarette vending machines was very important for public health and for reducing the accessibility of children and teens to the deadly habit of smoking. The ministry has asked the Council of Local Authorities and the municipalities, as well as the Israel Police, to ensure that the vending machines disappear by January 1. Theoretically, the automated devices could be retrofitted to sell things like bottles of water or bags of fruit or vegetables, for example.

To help with enforcement, members of the general public are asked to report on the presence of any vending machines selling cigarettes by calling the ministry’s Voice of Health number at *5400 or writing to prevent@moh.health.gov.il.
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