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Enforcement of no-smoking laws in public places took a giant step forward on Tuesday when the Knesset Economics Committee approved for second and third (final) readings in the plenum a bill that would require proprietors to prevent violations by their customers.
Next week, the Knesset plenum will vote on the legislation, and no opposition is expected. The law is slated to take effect three months later.
The private member's bill, initiated by MK Gilad Erdan (Likud), would fine proprietors NIS 5,000 for every time they fail to prevent customers from smoking in public areas on their premises; if a fine is ignored, it will grow to a maximum of NIS 67,500.
Similar fines will be levied for failing to hang the required number of "No-Smoking" signs. The smoker himself will also pay a NIS 1,000 fine for each violation, instead of the current NIS 310. The bill would also prohibit putting ashtrays or objects that can serve as ashtrays in public places, with a fine of NIS 1,250 for each ashtray. The fine proceeds are to be kept by the municipalities and local authorities.
Under the existing, largely unenforced law, smoking in public places is only permitted in separate and ventilated rooms that are not used by nonsmokers, on condition that the space is less than a quarter of the whole premises, and only if the owner wants a smoking area. Thus smoking is not permitted in staircases. Smoking is even prohibited in outdoor cafes.
Owners of various malls and wedding halls, as well as the Center of Local Authorities (because of the "bother") voiced opposition to the bill in Tuesday's Economics Committee meeting.
Under the bill, proprietors would be allowed to appoint employees or contract security guards to serve as inspectors who will instruct customers not to smoke.
If customers at public establishments refuse to obey the law, proprietors would have to call for a municipal inspector to enforce it. The IDF and the Israel Police would be responsible for enforcing the law within their own facilities.
"The public will have a major role in enforcement," said attorney Amos Hausner, head of the National Council for the Prevention of Smoking. He drafted the bill and encouraged Erdan to fight for its passage.
Hausner said Israel was one of the 148 ratifiers of the World Health Organization's Framework Agreement on Tobacco, and that last week, the ratifying nations declared that all smoking rooms in public places should be eliminated. The would put Israel in the same category as other countries that have totally prohibited smoking in public places to protect their citizens' health, he said.
The National Council for the Prevention of Smoking is already encouraging nonsmokers to file suits in small claims' courts against proprietors who fail to enforce the existing law. Three people have already been awarded damages of between NIS 1,000 and NIS 2,500.
Information on how to do this can be obtained at www.avir-naki.com and www.linshom.com.