The head of the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, announced on World No-Smoking Day Tuesday that he has outlawed smoking not only in “smoking rooms” inside the buildings, but also in outdoor “smoking corners” attached to the buildings.
The only place that patients, staffers and visitors may smoke is in outdoor smoking corners that are far away and to the side of the hospital buildings that are reachable by a considerable walk.
Gamzu said Tuesday violators will pay a fine of NIS 1,000 per cigarette. Tel Aviv Municipality inspectors will be invited into the hospital to fine violators. Hospital staffers caught smoking will be subject not only to the hefty fine but also to a personal investigation and warning from Gamzu.
Staff members who smoke will be invited to participate on free smoking-cessation courses at the hospital, and medical teams will be trained to help patients kick the deadly habit.
“We are implementing a new health system standard in activity against smoking as part of our revolution for health promotion at Sourasky, said Gamzu, who became Sourasky director-general a few months. Several years ago, as director- general of the ministry, he received an award from Tel Aviv University for his efforts to fight smoking.
“I see this process as very important in leading health promotion among patients and staffers. The health system must ensure that the air in hospitals be clean and unpolluted by toxic tobacco smoke,” Gamzu added.
The ministry said yesterday that an order it prepared to bar lighting up in hospital smoking rooms and outdoor smoking corners would be signed by Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman after it is passed by the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee. But there was no mention of who would enforce the regulations.
Gamzu, in the ministry, pushed forward a government bill to prohibit the advertising of tobacco ads in the print media, but when Litzman left his post of deputy health minister after his United Torah Judaism party left the coalition, he appeared in a Knesset committee to oppose Gamzu’s bill. Litzman, whose Gur party owns the Hamodia newspaper that runs many Dubek tobacco company ads, said that there should be requirement that both anti-smoking and pro-smoking ads appear in the papers.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry issued on Tuesday the 2016 Smoking Report that by law must be given annually by the minister to the speaker of the Knesset.
The 135-page document, prepared by a committee headed by ministry tobacco cessation coordinator Haim Geva-Haspil, did not include an updated survey of how many Israeli adults smoked in the past year. The previous figure was 19.8.
“We do not do a survey every year,” said Geva-Haspil. According to experts aware of tobacco consumption, however, the smoking rate has not declined since last year.
The report notes that the ministry has banned smoking in all educational institutions.
It also said it has “completely wiped out” the phenomenon of stores illegally selling individual cigarettes to children and others. However, it did not have enforcement figures, and the illegal practice has been noted by this reporter and others in various stores, especially in ultra-Orthodox (haredi) neighborhoods.
The ministry has not taken action to require plain packaging of tobacco products to reduce demand, even though the World Health Organization and the secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – of which Israel is a signatory – demanded this on Tuesday.
“Plain packaging of tobacco products restricts or prohibits the use of logos, colors, brand images and promotional information on packaging other than brand and product names displayed in a standard color and font style,” the WHO said.
At the end of 2012, Australia became the first country to fully implement plain packaging. Last month, France and the UK each began implementation of plain packaging. Ireland is also preparing to introduce the measure, while other countries are exploring the option.
“Plain packaging reduces the attractiveness of tobacco products. It kills the glamor, which is appropriate for a product that kills people,” said WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan. “It restricts tobacco advertising and promotion.
It limits misleading packaging and labeling. And it increases the effectiveness of health warnings.”
Bnai Zion Medical Center in Haifa said that fully half of all deaths from cardiovascular diseases result from smoking.
“Tobacco is the only legal consumer product that is liable to kill its users,” the hospital continued.
“The aim of the industry is to cause as many users as possible to become addicted by adding intense levels of addictive substances. Most children who smoke start between age 10 and 13. Among adults, the socioeconomically disadvantaged are most likely to get hooked and to suffer the medical consequences.
“This greatly widens the social gap,” said Inna Greenberg, a senior nurse in the cardiology department. “If significant efforts are not made to cut smoking by 2030, some eight million people will die each year as a result of tobacco.”
Doctors at the lung institute at Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot marked No Smoking Day by walking through “smoking corners” and asking smokers to throw their cigarettes away in exchange for free energy bars donated by a cafe on campus.