Knesset to take new steps against smoking

Silman questioned police legal department representative Adi Tal why the police give fines for holding a phone while driving but let people drive while holding a cigarette.

Deep breaths: Smoking pollution in Tel Aviv (photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE PEXELS)
Deep breaths: Smoking pollution in Tel Aviv
(photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE PEXELS)

Knesset Health Committee chairwoman Idit Silman (Yamina) vowed to pass a series of new anti-smoking bills on Monday at a meeting of her committee on the dangers of smoking.

Silman, who as coalition chairwoman has power to push her bills forward, will propose legislation raising the minimum age for buying cigarettes to 21, banning tobacco company lobbyists from the Knesset and requiring police to enforce current anti-smoking laws instead of local authorities. She will also try to change the status of open porches of apartments to public places so neighbors will not be subject to passive smoke.

“I would rather make smoking completely illegal in Israel, but if that cannot be done yet, this can,” Silman told her committee. “More has to be done to fight the tobacco companies.”

Silman questioned Police legal department representative Adi Tal as to why the Police give fines for holding a phone while driving but let people drive while holding a cigarette. Tal responded that local authorities are in charge of enforcing anti-smoking laws, not the police. Silman said she would make sure that gets changed.

“This is why we have police,” she said. “It is not right that municipalities enforce laws preventing noise and not smoking.”

Coalition Chairwoman Idit Silman (Yamina) at the first meeting of the Health Committee, Aug 11, 2021 (credit: DANI SHEM TOV/KNESSET SPOKESPERSONS OFFICE)Coalition Chairwoman Idit Silman (Yamina) at the first meeting of the Health Committee, Aug 11, 2021 (credit: DANI SHEM TOV/KNESSET SPOKESPERSONS OFFICE)

Dr. Efrat Alfalo, who heads the Health Ministry’s education department, said that 8,000 Israelis die annually from smoking, including 800 as a result of passive smoke. The rate of smoking in Israel is 20.1% and is much higher among Arabs than Jews and among men than women.

Aflalo said COVID-19 only made the situation worse, because it made people tense and led to more passive smoke from people smoking during lockdowns and quarantines.

Shas MK Moshe Abutbul said he presented a bill making it illegal to smoke in a car with a child. He said that when his wife was pregnant with their first child, she forced him to quit.

Veteran anti-smoking activist Amos Hausner told the committee that all Israelis pay a heavy price for those who smoke, and too many laws are not being enforced. He called for immediate steps to remove addictive ingredients from cigarettes.