Health Ministry plans amendments to further reduce smoking

After the ministry unveiled a plan to reduce the amount of tobacco use over the coming years, new amendments will be introduced in two weeks.

man smoking 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
man smoking 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Amendments that will make it more difficult to smoke will be introduced by the Health Ministry in two months, ministry director-general Dr. Ronni Gamzu said at a session of the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee on Monday.
He was speaking less than two weeks after the ministry unveiled a plan to reduce the amount of tobacco use over the coming years.
The ministry had said it would set up a special unit to reduce smoking that would be budgeted by the Treasury to the tune of NIS 50 million, but the Finance Ministry’s budgets division said the money must be provided by the Health Ministry instead. No discussion of the unit’s budget was raised at the session.
Gamzu said: “We go crazy from the steady smoking rate” that unlike those of many countries, has not declined substantially. “The silent majority” of the 77 percent of the public who don’t smoke want an environment clean of smoke, he said.
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) presented the committee with his No Smoking Report for 2010, which was issued two weeks ago.  Among the proposed changes would be prohibiting cigarette vending machines, prohibiting smoking in teachers’ rooms, improved enforcement of laws and raising tobacco taxes.
Committee chairman Haim Katz (Likud) said the government’s enforcement of no-smoking laws “is not serious. The [municipal inspectors] give one-and-a-half fines a day. It’s a joke. If the Health Ministry asks to set down regulations on the matter, it will receive the committee’s support. An order that would completely bar smoking in schools must be promoted,” he said.

Kadima MK Gideon Ezra, who suffers from lung cancer after smoking at least 40 cigarettes a day for most of his life, said he is “paying the price. Children today start smoking already in sixth grade, and that must be halted. I presented a bill to expand the number of hours in which pupils learn about the dangers of smoking. But one must stop torturing smokers. It won’t help. Our legislation is going in the wrong directions.”
Meretz MK Ilan Gillon agreed and called for “educating children. [Otherwise] it’s a lost battle. I started to smoke before I was 10 years old, and I quit four months ago,” he said.