City U. of NY bars smoking on campuses, including outdoors

In Israel, implementation seems far away; Health Ministry says no-smoking measures not dependent on amendments but on university administrations.

By
January 30, 2011 04:33
4 minute read.
10,000 ISRAELIS have taken course to quit smoking

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

The largest urban higher education system in the US – the City University of New York – has taken an historic stand against smoking and the death and disease that lie in its wake.

Its 500,000 undergraduate and graduate students and tens of thousands of employees on 23 campuses will be forbidden to smoke anywhere, including outdoors or in “smoking rooms.”

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But such an achievement – while possible according to Israeli law – seems far from being implemented on local university and college campuses here.

The New York Times reported this week that the board of trustees of CUNY, which includes noted public institutions of higher learning in the five boroughs such as City College, Queens College and Brooklyn College, voted to forbid smoking throughout the campuses starting in September 2012. The idea is to give those addicted to tobacco time to undergo smoking cessation courses or kick the habit on their own.

Until the 2012 academic year begins, CUNY will hang no-smoking signs warning that it is forbidden to light up anywhere on the campuses, prepare smoking-cessation courses and launch an educational campaign, the Times said. Faculty and students at CUNY’s new School of Public Health were at the forefront of the battle to prohibit smoking on the campuses.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already taken a strong stand against tobacco by proposing that the municipality expand its ban on smoking in indoor workplaces to outdoor locations including public parks and beaches.

Could the same thing happen on Israeli campuses?

Asked to comment, the Health Ministry said that no-smoking laws prohibit lighting up in public places including institutions of higher learning, but allow it in designated smoking rooms and outdoors.

“At this stage, we do not intend to require universities and colleges to be completely free of smoking. Such a move, is not dependent on a ministry initiative or amendments to laws but on the administrations of the academic institutions, which are entitled to decide themselves about their no-smoking policies on campus,” the ministry said.

“If they want to, they are entitled to declare ‘Smoke-Free Campuses’ and apply this immediately. It is important to note that those who populate academic institutions are over age 18, and they are expected to understand the health dangers of smoking.”

Amos Hausner, a veteran lawyer involved in no-smoking legislation and chairman of the Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking, told The Jerusalem Post that “Section 1 of the addendum to the Law for the Prevention of Smoking and Exposure to Secondhand Smoke specifically empowers the owner or occupier of any public place to completely ban smoking in its premises. Section 5 deals with institutes for higher education, thus their ‘owners or holders’ certainly may ban smoking altogether on campuses.”

Indeed, added Hausner, “many places of employment – including hi-tech firms with ‘clean rooms’ containing delicate computer equipment – preceded the provisions of this law and banned smoking altogether or in part. So have many restaurants and coffee shops that do not make use of the possibility to designate a separate smoking room.”

Even today, said Hausner, the ban on smoking on airplanes is the result of an international agreement between the carriers, “which was reached in the 1990s as a result of my application to the Supreme Court against El Al and the Transport Ministry. Similarly, the law allows a smoking car in Israel Railway trains, but the management decided against it.”

Dr. Leah Rosen, a Tel Aviv University tobacco prevention researcher, told the Post that the decision by CUNY is “commendable and well justified. It would be an excellent measure for us to adopt here in Israel. Tobacco is the only legal product which kills half of its users, when used in the ordinary way. Restricting smoking in educational institutions provides a clear message to our youth and educators that smoking is unacceptable in those environments. This step will help de-normalize smoking, discourage initiation, promote cessation and end exposure of nonsmoker’s to second- and third-hand smoke in those places.”

The Israel Cancer Association officially welcomed the CUNY decision and called it as “an important step in the war against smoking.”

The ICA called on the managements of all Israeli universities and colleges to take up the challenge and completely bar smoking on campuses, including outdoors. It noted that cigarettes contain 43 proven toxic and carcinogenic chemicals and cause 10,000 Israeli deaths a year, including 1,000 to 1,500 nonsmokers who inhale the toxins of those near them.

A HU spokesman, Jerry Barach, said that “smoking is prohibited indoors on our campuses but not outdoors. I believe that this is the common practice in Israel.”

Meanwhile, in a 45 to one vote, the Knesset passed on Wednesday in its preliminary reading a private member’s bill initiated by MK Uri Ariel to prohibit cigarette vending machines around the country. The bill was previously approved by the ministerial committee on legislation.


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