A private member's bill that would have allowed restaurants and other eating places to set aside 20 percent of their area for smoking was rejected by the Knesset plenum on its preliminary reading on Wednesday.
The bill was presented by MK Zvi Hendel of the National Union-National Religious Party and voted down 30 to 25, with two abstentions.
If the bill had gone on to become law, it would have exposed nonsmoking employees to customers' smoke. Last year, a law significantly increased fines for violating smoking rules and made the owners of premises responsible for dismissing employees who failed to ask smokers to put their cigarettes out.
Wednesday's vote did not go according to party or according to which MKs smoke or not. All five Shas lawmakers who were present voted against, as did NU-NRP MK Zevulun Orlev, but MK Benny Elon (NU-NRP) voted in favor of the bill. All of Meretz MKs voted against, while Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich voted in favor of Hendel's initiative. Kadima MK Yoel Hasson was effective in mobilizing opposition to the bill. All seven ministers who were there voted against, including heavy smoker Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On.
Attorney Amos Hausner, chairman of the Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking, said he was pleased by the vote as it projected an Israeli image of "a country that observes international commitments such as the World Health Organization Framework Agreement on Tobacco Control, protects public health and is concerned about workers.
"Not only most Western countries, but also Egypt and Turkey have passed strict laws that bar smoking in public places," he said. "If it had passed and go on to become a law, anyone who voted for it would be responsible for the diseases and suffering it would have caused."