Victory for our lungs

Light rail’s electronic message boards finally to warn against illegal smoking.

Cigarette butts litter the Yefeh Nof light rail station (photo credit: JUDY SIEGEL)
Cigarette butts litter the Yefeh Nof light rail station
(photo credit: JUDY SIEGEL)
 Four-and-a-half years after failing to give a single NIS 1,000 fine for illegal smoking along the Light Rail’s 23 stations, CityPass has finally agreed to place no-smoking warnings on all the stations’ electronic message boards.
Shmuel Elgrabli, the Transport Ministry’s strategic adviser for the capital’s light rail and transportation master plan, received the idea from The Jerusalem Post that the smoking ban be broadcast periodically from the public address system along with existing announcements instructing passengers to validate their tickets and not leave their personal belongings at the stations or on the train. CityPass refused, saying that people living near the light rail line object to the noise, but it did not agree to lower the volume of its messages.
However, when the Post suggested adding a no-smoking message to the electronic message board, the company finally agreed.
Secondhand (passive) and third-hand (tobacco toxins left on objects for days, weeks and even months) smoking have been recognized by the World Health Organization and the Health Ministry in Jerusalem as major dangers to health. Passengers waiting for a train are captives of smokers who violate the law and remain unpunished. When non-smokers – who constitute more than 80 percent of the public – ask that cigarettes be stubbed out, they are often ignored and sometimes even threatened by violators.
When the light rail line started running in August 2011, smoking anywhere on the station platforms (not just near the benches under the roofed sections) was prohibited, but the Jerusalem Municipality never posted inspectors, and not a single fine was handed out. The office of Mayor Nir Barkat said it was enforcing the no-smoking laws in public places “according to our priorities.” If the municipality fined violators, the city itself would pocket a NIS 1,000-per-cigarette fine.
The Health Ministry pushed a law through the Knesset in 2012 barring smoking at all roofed bus stops around the country, but it never set down clear regulations, and that law has never been enforced either.
Hundreds of cigarette butts are swept up daily by municipal cleaning workers each day at stations along the eight-kilometer-long Red Line, only to be replaced immediately by more butts within hours. But there are no city inspectors patrolling the line for the littering, even though they do give a minimal number of smoking fines in other parts of the city.
Elgrabli told In Jerusalem this week that “the CityPass company has agreed to add the smoking prohibition to the electronic messages at the stations. In addition, the municipality’s inspectors have been instructed to increase their enforcement against violators of no-smoking laws at the stations. But the prohibition will not be announced out loud by the public address system because residents living near the line complain about noise from the PA system.
“We will continue to ask and press for this nevertheless,” Elgrabli added.