Knesset panel to discuss 'red cards' for smokers

Current law prohibits smoking in public places, but is rarely enforced.

By BENJAMIN UCHITELLE-PIERCE
February 26, 2007 22:10
2 minute read.
smoking 88

smoking 88. (photo credit: )

 
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The Knesset's Health and social Affairs Committee will be meeting Tuesday to discuss a bill introduced by Likud MK Gilad Erdan to change the enforcement of the current anti-smoking law. The current law, enacted in 1983, outlawed smoking in restaurants, bars and other public places in Israel, but most patrons as well as owners ignore these restrictions, according to anti-smoking advocates. Last week's edition of In Jerusalem reported that although municipal inspectors were authorized to enforce the anti-smoking law, they rarely did so. Several Web activists have taken matters into their own hands to enforce the preexisting law and support the new smoking bill being discussed today. In October 2006, Amir Siman-Tov created his own anti-smoking Web site (www.linshom.com) and posted a petition calling for authorities to enforce current smoking bans. Siman-Tov has collected 7,000 signatures and will be presenting his petition to Erdan at today's meeting. In addition to calling for enforcement of the current law, the petition also calls for the police, local authorities and the Health Ministry to protect citizens' health and asks MKs to promote laws that will be stricter with businesses that do not comply with the law. Noam Benyamini, a student at the University of Haifa, began his fight against smoking when he was working in a Haifa mall. "I was working in the mall and many people were smoking inside, so I decided to do something," he said. Benyamini created a Web site (nosmoke.stand.at) and began a campaign to boycott restaurants that allowed smoking. He created cards for his 200-member Web community to leave at restaurants where people were allowed to smoke. These "red cards" state that the user will not return to that restaurant due to the failure to enforce the law and that the restaurant's policy exposes it to fines and legal action. So far, Benyamini has compiled a list of more than 100 restaurants on his Web site that have been "red-carded." i>The Jerusalem Post reported on February 2 that the Finance Ministry was opposing the new anti-smoking bill despite estimates that it could earn authorities NIS 450 million. Amos Hausner, who has been an anti-smoking advocate for 24 years, helped write the bill and said it was strange that the Finance Ministry would oppose this legislation. "I feel that the Finance Ministry is definitely not fulfilling their duty to the public," he told the Post on Monday. "This bill should earn them more than 10 times the amount of the expenditure." The Finance Ministry estimated that the appointment of five inspectors for each local authority, which is very few according to the ministry, would have a minimum cost of NIS 92m. per year. When questioned about anti-smoking advocates' claims that the pending bill would generate far more funds than the cost, the Finance Ministry declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Erdan told the Post Monday that Erdan was trying to explain to the Finance Ministry that the tickets issued to businesses that allow smoking would be enough to cover the cost of the inspectors' salaries. "We believe that in the end, we will be able to convince the ministry of these facts," she said.

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