Cities won't profit from new smoking law

Most cites following J'lem's lead, focusing more on publicizing than issuing fines.

anti-smoking 88 (photo credit: )
anti-smoking 88
(photo credit: )
The Jerusalem Municipality does not plan to make big money from the amendment to the anti-smoking law passed last week, which raises the fine for smoking illegally and introduces penalties for proprietors failing to prevent their customers or employees from smoking in public areas on their premises. "The goal of the enforcement of the law is to prevent the suffering of those exposed to second-hand smoke and not the enrichment of the city treasury," says municipal spokesman Gideon Schmerling. Most cites are following Jerusalem's lead, focusing more on publicizing smoking's health hazards and its illegality in public areas rather than actually issuing fines. Under the new law for Preventing Smoking and Exposure to Smoking in Public Places, which passed unanimously on July 25, a fine of NIS 5,000 will be issued to proprietors, and a NIS 1,000 fine for smokers - up from NIS 310 - for each violation of the ban on smoking in public places. The law also prohibits placing ashtrays or similar objects in public places, with a fine of NIS 1,290 for each ashtray. In addition it, requires municipalities to establish a 24-hour hotline to accept complaints. The law, which goes into effect at the end of August, includes the existing, largely unenforced law, levying fines for failing to affix the required number of "No smoking" signs and permitting smoking only in separate, ventilated rooms. The proceeds from the fines are to be kept by the municipalities and local authorities. The fines are expected to produce a major change in the quality of life for the 75 percent of the population in Israel who don't smoke. However, Schmerling says, Jerusalem City Hall does not plan to install a special hotline for smoking violations. He notes that there is already a call center, 106, which locals can use to report violations of the law. Schmerling adds that the municipality plans to continue its vigorous commitment to enforce the smoking law. The spokesman of Tel Aviv-Yaffo, Hillel Partouk, says that the government did not allocate resources to implement the new law and that the city is bound by its limited manpower and the need to distribute resources to different supervision assignments in the city. The enforcement activities in Tel Aviv-Yaffo, however, will continue as scheduled by giving smoking fine warnings, affixing "No smoking" signs in food facilities, and issuing fines in the area of Ichilov Hospital. There have been more than 250 fines given to illegal smokers this year, and enforcement will steadily increase in the malls. Kfar Saba issued 200 fines in 2006 - up 50% from 2005 - and posted signs all over town proclaiming the illegality of smoking in public places. Managing Director of the Arad Municipality, Ariel Hirt, says that Arad is working in conjunction with the local police and the local chapter of the Israel Cancer Association on a project called "Arad - a non-smoking city." The municipality will use the carrot-and-stick method, raising public awareness and issuing more fines. Starting today, the city will distribute explanatory flyers and give out pamphlets in stands throughout public facilities about the hazards of smoking. Because people no longer smoke as often in places where the city has already given fines, the number of fines distributed will not rise, but the number of places in which the fines are issued will increase. According to Roni Grossman, the spokesman of the Haifa Municipality, Haifa City Hall is already vigorously working to enforce the smoking law, giving out 505 smoking fines in 2006 - mostly in the hospitals but also 67 to owners of businesses lacking "No smoking" signs. On February 1, the Haifa Municipality began to enforce the current law in malls, the court, and the Carmel Beach Center. Since the beginning of enforcement, there have been hundreds more fines. In partnership with the Health Ministry, "No smoking" signs have been posted, informational flyers warning against the beginning of enforcement have been distributed, and every half hour an announcement is made over public address speakers in malls and public buildings warning that smoking in undesignated public spaces is illegal. Karmiel has a special supervisor for ensuring that the smoking law is obeyed in public areas, and locals can call the city telephone service number to report violations. About 150 fines have been issued per year. According to Karmiel's spokesperson, however, the most important aspect of the law is public awareness, informing citizens of the lethal potential of smoking. Judy Siegel-Itzkovich and Gavriel Fiske contributed to this report .