(photo credit: Courtesy)
On January 1, 2014, vending machines will be allowed to sell things like postal
stamps, envelopes, chewing gum and cold drinks – but not cigarettes or other
The Knesset Economics Committee on Monday approved a
private member’s bill initiated by MK Uri Ariel (National Union) for its second
and third (final) reading in the plenum. It was an appropriate way to mark World
No Smoking Day on Tuesday, May 31.
Thus, yet again, the effort to reduce
smoking has come from private initiative and not from the Health
Ministry. Only on Sunday did the ministry present to the cabinet a plan
to reduce smoking below the current 23 percent of adults that included a
proposal to prohibit cigarette vending machines, but the private bill beat the
ministry to it. In the meantime, an initiative by MK Carmel Shama-
Hacohen (Likud) to keep the automatic machines distant from educational
institutions was approved as well. The health minister will have the
responsibility for determining how far the machines must be from vending
machines until they are made illegal.
According to legal experts working
to fight tobacco use, the health minister has long had the power to require
tobacco vending machines to be barred from the proximity of educational
institutions and other crucial locations but had not exercised this
The committee session was noisy, as vendors selling cigarettes to
all comers said that they would lose money, as they had taken out loans to buy
the machines and needed to get their investment back. The vendors want
the deadline to be in 2017.
Ilan Levy, who represented the vendors, said
that “only 3 percent” of cigarette sales are via the machines. But according to
the law, tobacco products may not be sold to minors. While this can be enforced
at kiosks and shops, it cannot be at vending machines. Levy suggested that
vending machines be put behind a counter, but Ariel opposed this, saying there
would be no public supervision of sales.
Dr. Ronni Gamzu suggested that the private bill bar machines at the
beginning of 2013, but Shama-Cohen, who heads the committee, suggested that 2014