TAU researcher: Enforcement of no-smoking laws ineffective

Since 2007 law, pub smoking down 70% in Jerusalem, 10% in Tel Aviv.

January 30, 2010 09:38
2 minute read.
smoking cafe 224

smoking cafe 224. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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Although smoking in entertainment and other public places is illegal, the level of dangerous particulate matter from tobacco smoke in Tel Aviv pubs and bars is five times higher than recommended and endangers the health of both customers and employees.

This was discovered by Dr. Leah Rosen of ’s health promotion department and is to be published on Friday in the European Journal of Public Health.

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She said that enforcement of the law by municipal inspectors is not effective because their numbers are small. 

It is ironic that many local authorities are not enthusiastic about enforcing no-smoking laws, as they pocket the fines and use them for other purposes.

Another reason for the poor enforcement, Rosen said, is that owners of pubs and bars inform one another when inspectors are on their way, meaning that when they arrive, none of the customers or employees are caught smoking.

Rosen, who formerly worked in health promotion in the Health Ministry, found that the level of tobacco pollution in such entertainment spots in Tel Aviv declined by only 10 percent after the expanded no-smoking law went into effect in 2007, while Jerusalemites are better behaved, with the level declining by 70% in such establishments in the capital.

The study was sponsored by FAMRI, the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute in the whose members suffered – and sometimes died – from diseases caused by chronic exposure to smoke on airline flights before smoking was barred on board.

The 2007 law extended the prohibition from smoking to bars and pubs after it was previously outlawed in cafes and restaurants. In addition, the owners of these and other public establishments were made liable for enforcing no-smoking laws by paying large fines if they fail to do so. The size of the fines was significantly increased.

Rosen said that the rate of smoking customers in bars and pubs declined from 19% before the law took effect to 9%, but the influence of the 2007 law has since declined due to poor enforcement and reduced fear among violators that they will be punished.

The overall level of toxic respirable suspended particles from tobacco has declined from 245 units to 161 since the law took effect, reflecting a 34% reduction in air pollution in bars, pubs and cafes. But in Tel Aviv, it dropped from 393 to 353 units, which is just a 10% decline, compared to the 70% drop in .

If the Israel Police were equipped with measuring devices for respirable suspended particles, said Rosen, or if public places and bar owners were required to install passive sensing and recording devices that yield objective results, Rosen suggested, it would be easier to enforce the law and protect customers and employees from damage to their health via secondhand tobacco smoke, which kills an estimated 2,000 Israelis a year.

A TAU symposium on smoking and legislation will be held at 4 p.m. on Sunday, with a lecture by Harvard University School of Public Health Prof. Gregory Connolly and the chairman of the Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking, lawyer Amos Hausner.

Meanwhile, the Israel Cancer Association – which is a member of the Council for the Prevention of Smoking, said on Thursday that 40% of all cancers can be prevented by healthful lifestyles such as not smoking and by exercise, eating nutritious foods, reducing alcohol consumption and minimizing exposure to the sun.

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