(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A private member’s bill presented by MKs Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) and Yehudah Glick (Likud) that prohibits tobacco advertising on the Internet and social media, but that exempts the print media and provides loopholes even for online advertising, was approved Sunday by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.
“It’s a matter of life and death,” said Cabel, who conceded to The Jerusalem Post that the lack of enforcement of no-smoking laws is a weak link in the bill, which is due to be presented for a preliminary vote.
“I hope it will pass through to second and third readings and be implemented,” said Cabel, adding that he would have been happier if the ban included newspapers, as originally drafted. “But younger people spend a lot of time on the Internet and on Facebook, so it could be beneficial.”
He did not say what fines would be given to violators and how it would be enforced. “In the long run, I hope there will be enforcement.”
The bill was put up for a vote in the committee due to the demand of Glick, a strong opponent of smoking and the son of prominent emeritus physician Prof. Shimon Glick of Ben-Gurion University. A few weeks ago, during the coalition crisis over the “supermarket bill” regarding Shabbat openings, MK Glick threatened to vote against it if a bill to fight smoking was not passed in the ministerial committee.
According to press reports, exempting newspapers from a ban on tobacco advertising was part of the coalition agreement initiated by United Torah Judaism, which sent MK Ya’acov Litzman to the government as health minister until his recent resignation over Shabbat issues (he remains an MK).
Amos Hausner, the head of the Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking and a leading anti-tobacco lawyer responsible for decades of writing anti-smoking legislation, told the Post that a ban on ads in newspapers was vital, especially since the Hebrew papers that accept cigarette ads don’t write much against smoking.
Hausner said that the Internet ban is also weak because, as with spam, it is merely the default position; people who enter websites and give their explicit permission could still see tobacco ads even if the bill is approved.
Duty-free stores in the airport will be able to advertise tobacco on their premises but not elsewhere in the airport, according to the bill. But the World Health Organization’s 2003 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control requires signatories to bar the sale of duty-free tobacco. Although Israel is a signatory, the convention has yet to be implemented here.
Hausner urged the Health Ministry to recognize tobacco smoking as a “chronic disease,” which would, under current law, force the health funds and hospitals to recognize smokers as people having a chronic illness, who therefore would have to be advised about how to treat their condition.