MKs weigh in on far-reaching plan to reduce smoking

"I support any move to restrict smoking in Israel," says Finance Minister Steinitz; cabinet to discuss plan to keep public smoke-free.

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May 29, 2011 12:14
2 minute read.
10,000 ISRAELIS have taken course to quit smoking

man smoking 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

The cabinet will discuss a pioneering plan on Sunday morning, prepared by experts within and outside the Health Ministry, to reduce smoking by the public and thereby minimize damage to health.

Several MKs weighed in on the measure.  "I support any move to restrict smoking in Israel," said Health Minister Yuval Steinitz, adding that he felt smoking "is evil."

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Transport Minister Israel Katz also expressed support, but warned that it would be difficult to enforce. "I expect people won't care about the law," he said, adding that current laws against smoking are hardly followed.

The recommendations include establishing a special unit to supervise the long-term effort to reduce smoking, which has gradually dropped to about 23 percent of the adult population but lags behind other Western countries.

If accepted, the plan will bolster protection of nonsmokers from exposure to tobacco, as numerous laws passed years and even decades ago are not adequately implemented, and many other changes are needed to conform to the World Health Organization’s Tobacco Framework Convention on Tobacco Control that Israel has ratified but has not fully carried out.

The report, along with its recommendations, has been ready for publication since February, but its publication was postponed at the last minute on the grounds that “the Justice Ministry was not ready” with the legal work.

Other recommendations include banning cigarette vending machines, requiring tobacco products to appear with graphic images of the damage of smoking (such as yellow teeth and cancerous, black-stained lungs), limiting duty-free sales of tobacco and further restricting tobacco advertising.

The report also recommends requiring tobacco importers and manufacturers to report added ingredients in their products, restricting smoking by teachers in educational institutions and prohibiting smoking at covered, outdoor bus stations and at train stations.

The health minister, according to the recommendations, will propose more ways to reduce the exposure of nonsmokers to tobacco smoke. In addition, the finance minister will examine changes in taxation to further reduce the demand for tobacco.

The environmental protection minister will prepare ways to reduce the improper disposal of cigarette butts in public spaces. Proposals for new legislation in these spheres must be disseminated within the government within 90 days, with the bills to be prepared within a year.

Although many middle-aged adults have quit smoking – making the number of former smokers larger than actual smokers – tobacco use is still prevalent among teens and young adults in their 20s and 30s.

The health damage caused by smoking is incontrovertible and ranges from lung cancer and other malignancies to sudden infant death syndrome and lung diseases.

The economic aspects of smoking and its effects are huge and also have to be addressed, the document states.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz has already said he does not oppose the Health Ministry’s proposals except for the establishment of a fund to reduce smoking. Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar support the report, and Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Shalom Simhon has said he does not oppose the report.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz supports the proposals but opposes the section that would ban smoking at train stations and at covered, outdoor bus stations.


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