Rambam bans cigarette sales at hospital

Rami Levy promises to clear stores of tobacco in another 2 years.

January 30, 2012 23:27
3 minute read.

smoking (illustrative). (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)


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Rambam Medical Center in Haifa has become “the first government hospital” in the country to prohibit voluntarily the sale of tobacco products in shops, kiosks and vending machines on its whole campus.

It has thus altruistically decided to forgo annual income of hundreds of thousands of shekels from commissions and rentals, it said.

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Originally, Rambam said on Monday it was the “first hospital in the country” to bar the sale of tobacco on its campus, but when The Jerusalem Post found at least two other medical centers – Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek and Hadassah University Medical Center on Mount Scopus – that have not allowed the sale of tobacco for years, even decades, Rambam changed its statement to “the first state hospital.”

The management decision, which took effect this month, resulted from a matter of principle – of promoting good health, said Rambam Director-General Rafael Beyar, himself an interventional cardiologist. Beyar, who initiated the move, said a medical institution that daily witnesses the damage caused by cigarettes to health had to “make a clear statement” against smoking.

When the Post asked the Health Ministry whether it would now prohibit the sale of tobacco at all other government hospitals – it responded: “The ministry congratulates Rambam Medical Center and its blessed activities in fighting smoking and hopes all hospitals in the country follow in its footsteps.”

After prodding, the ministry expanded its response and said its director-general, Prof. Ronnie Gamzu, will “consider, within his authority, directing all the general hospitals to prevent the sale of cigarettes” on their premises.

Beyar said that in recent weeks his hospital has made great efforts to set up “smoking corners” in specific areas in the hospitals and educational and informational signs, especially forbidding smoking outside the doors leading to the hospital wards, where smoking is especially annoying and harmful.

Rambam is one of the few hospitals where a municipal inspector hands out fines for smoking in places where it is forbidden. The fine is NIS 1,000 per violation, Beyar said, adding that he knows the public will obviously continue to buy tobacco outside the campus and try to use the products inside, “but we are planning future steps” to prevent violations.

National Council for the Prevention of Smoking head Amos Hausner said he congratulated Rambam, as a hospital that does healing “must not sell death.” But Hausner has said many times that hospitals and other public facilities should not allow indoor smoking rooms at all, and all who insist on smoking should go outdoors. Hausner also called on the IDF to ban the sale of tobacco products in canteens and other facilities.

“If they have to, soldiers can bring them from home but they must not smoke indoors,” he said.

He noted his disappointment that many religiously observant people still smoke even though very prominent rabbis, including Rabbi Shlomo Wosner of Bnei Brak, have ruled that it is forbidden to sell tobacco products, let alone use them.

Supermarket and cellular phone service mogul Rami Levy, who said he personally doesn’t smoke or allow close family members to do so, lets his mehadrin (Eda Haredit kashrut-supervised) supermarket in Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul rent out a tobacco shop inside the building that the Eda Haredit rabbis have not prohibited from operating even though it is widely recognized that smoking violates Jewish law.

When asked over a year ago why he doesn’t bar the sale of tobacco in his entire chain, but especially in the mehadrin store, Levy said it would take “a year” for the expiration of the contract with the company that owns all the shops and vending machines in his chain. But on Monday, he told the Post the contracting company took an option to continue supplying tobacco products to his chain, thus lengthening the contract for two years. Levy promised, however, that he will stop all tobacco sales in his stores in another two years when the contract with the supplying company runs out.

On December 21, the ministry made it illegal to install cigarette vending machines within 1,000 meters of schools and other educational institutions. Starting January 1, 2014, the use of tobacco vending machines will be completely barred, giving the vendors time to “make up their investments” in the machines, even though they could easily be retrofitted immediately to sell other products.

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