Gordon swimming pool in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A successful mechanism for enforcing the smoking ban in public places has emerged through a class-action suit against the Tel Aviv Municipality, which is responsible for fining offenders but itself did not observe the law on its own property – the famed Gordon swimming pool. Smoking at the facility, which is used by celebrities, MKs, and ordinary people, has resulted in a precedent-setting Tel Aviv District Court judgment against the city, which was sued for non-enforcement of the no-smoking law in public places. The judge awarded the plaintiffs’ lawyers legal fees of NIS 35,000 plus value-added tax, as it was the action of the plaintiff that brought about the enforcement of the law around the pool.
Tel Aviv District Court Judge Shoshana Almagor accepted the arguments of plaintiff Elad Shabtai, that prior to the presentation of the class-action suit the enforcement of the smoking ban at the Gordon pool was insufficient. The pool is owned by the municipality and run by a company founded by the Jewish Agency.
Shabtai argued that he had often encountered smoking in the area surrounding the pool by violators of the smoking ban.
In its defense, the municipality claimed it had posted no-smoking signs, hired two security guards, and had two people operating the facility. The city added a statement by a policeman that, at the beginning of each shift, the staff stressed the prohibition of smoking and drinking alcohol near the pool and in its gym.
It argued, however, that the facilities are so large that it was “impossible to enforce the law at all times and in all places around the pool,” an argument which the court rejected.
Nevertheless, Shabtai argued that, at the beginning of the summer of 2014 as a consequence of the lawsuit, enforcement had already improved and he requested the hearing of the case be postponed till after the summer, so it would become clear whether the law was being duly enforced by the city. The court agreed to the postponement and asked for an update.
In November 2014, Shabtai told the court that his suit against the city had achieved its goal, and that signs warning against smoking and of fines to violators were posted all over the area.
In addition, staffers made the rounds regularly to prevent smoking and ask those violating the law to leave the premises.
“Everybody who wants to smoke is now leaving the pool area to smoke outside,” said Shabtai.
The municipality and company running the pool argued that there had been no actual change in enforcement, but the judge rejected this. She also accepted the arguments of Shabtai – who was represented by lawyers Amos Hausner (chairman of the Council for the Prevention of Smoking) and Eyal Avidan – that the municipality could not claim it is beyond its power to enforce the smoking ban.
Much larger facilities than Gordon, such as open stadiums, had managed to completely stop illegal smoking, the judge said. She added that, if the owners should approach each and every smoker and still found it difficult to prevent smoking, they should seek assistance from the police.
The plaintiff and lawyers concluded that there is now an effective avenue for civil enforcement of the smoking ban. If one encounters a smoking violation, and the owners are indifferent to it, a class-action suit is a proper redress. It swiftly prevented smoking in the Gordon pool, and it is capable of ending smoking in other public places, they claimed.