Knesset to ban smoking in more public places but not enforce existing laws

Smoking will be prohibited in outdoor performance spaces, hospitals and spaces for physical activity.

No-Smoking Sign (photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
No-Smoking Sign
(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
The Health Ministry has asked the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee to add several types of outdoor spaces to the list of places where smoking is forbidden – but is doing little to enforce existing no-smoking laws.
According to the request, smoking will be prohibited in places where outdoor performances – which are usually crowded – are held. In addition, smoking will be prohibited throughout hospitals, but the hospital director-general will be given the option of allocating smoking areas, the ministry said on Tuesday.
The ministry said that since 80% of the public who do not smoke have a “right to breathe clean air,” it will also ban smoking in places used for physical activity, such as sports fields and playgrounds.
People will also not be allowed to light up in zoos, but zoo management will be able to allocate smoking areas under certain conditions. Smoking in indoor and underground parking lots will also be forbidden, the ministry added.
The ban on smoking in buildings, government offices and kindergartens will be extended to a distance of 10 meters from their entrances, in a manner similar to the ban in educational institutions – to prevent the gathering of smokers at entrances and their creating a hazard for those wishing to enter the area.
However, the ministry has said in its annual Smoking Report and on several other occasions that it admits to the Knesset that enforcement of existing laws by the local authorities is very poor, and that many municipalities and local authorities fail to report how many fines they hand out to smokers in forbidden places.
At Jerusalem Light Rail stations, for example, smoking is already illegal, but violations are a daily occurrence, as witnessed by the number of cigarette butts on the platform. The Jerusalem Municipality has avoided giving NIS 1,000 fines for smoking since the route was opened in August 2011.
Amos Hausner, chairman of the Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking, commented on the ministry announcement: “What really needs to be done is the removal of smoking areas such as in coffee shops and pubs. Young people who serve the public in such places are exposed against their will to huge concentrations of tobacco toxins. Their health should take precedence over the expansion of the list of places where smoking is banned, including outdoors, but not enforced.”
Hausner added that the ministry’s new order, which would continue to allow smoking rooms, “is outdated; it is basically from 1999. All modern legislation in Britain, Ireland, France, Norway, Canada, Australia, Belgium, the US and more prohibits smoking rooms, thus leaving Israel way behind.”