Soldiers are smoking mad over tobacco ban on IDF bases

Soldiers have already begun plotting to disobey the new orders, call Knesset "unnecessary."

IDF smoking 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
IDF smoking 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The IDF was handed an official order from the Knesset Tuesday - no more smoking on military bases or other security institutions, effective immediately. The law, which passed a third and final reading in the plenum Tuesday, would eliminate the IDF's current exemption from the laws that ban smoking in public places. Soldiers have already begun plotting to disobey the new orders, slamming the Knesset for "creating unnecessary legislature." "The politicians who created this law have clearly never understood what it means to be in the army," said David, a 20-year-old Golani Brigade soldier from Haifa. "We're finally not living at home, under our parents' rules. We're adults, and smoking is a common and sometimes necessary thing for us to do to relieve tension." Steve, another soldier who smokes, added, "No way this is enforceable. It's not going to work. Part of our livelihood is cigarettes and coffee, that's how you make it through. Three-quarters of the base, even top-ranking officers, smoke all the time, so there's no way to enforce it." David said the military had always created its own laws and governed itself internally. "There is always a feeling of the army being an authority in and of itself. It has its own language, full of acronyms, and its own culture. Part of that culture is smoking," said David. "The Knesset member who thought up this law should be shot." That MK, Yoel Hasson (Kadima), said that despite the criticism of soldiers, he still believed the legislature was necessary and correct. Eleven MKs voted in favor of the law, and only one - MK Moshe Sharoni (Gil Pensioners) - voted against it. Hasson said he had created the law because the current rules that govern smoking on military bases are often not enforced properly. It has been very difficult for soldiers to demand that their commanding officers observe the non-smoking rules, said Hasson, due to the chain of command. Under the new law, military police and others in charge of discipline in the security forces will enforce the antismoking rules, and violators will face a disciplinary board and be rebuked, fined and possibly even jailed. Hasson first drafted the bill several months ago, after serving reserve duty. "While serving in the reserves three weeks ago, I realized that I couldn't escape the smell of cigarette smoke. It was in the bedrooms, the canteen, even the bathrooms! Soldiers shouldn't be subjected to passive smoking just because smoke bans don't apply at army bases," said Hasson. The law will also apply to the Israel Police, Israel Prisons Service, the Defense Ministry and security units connected to the Prime Minister's Office. Because soldiers do not have an employee-employer relationship with the army, civilian laws against smoking in public have not been in force. The IDF voiced opposition to the bill during several meetings of the Knesset's Committee on Welfare and Health. "We cannot accept a foreign policing body on our bases," said an IDF representative at a committee meeting to discuss the bill two months ago. The IDF did not issue a response to the final passing of the law Tuesday. Passive smoke, also called secondhand smoke, is the involuntary inhalation of tobacco smoke. Current scientific evidence shows that it can cause the same damage as voluntary smoke - heart disease, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. Ayelet Hashahar Wolf, who represented chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients during discussions of the bill, said the disease was caused by smoking and kills 3,000 Israelis each year out of the total 12,000 who die of smoking-related causes. She welcomed the bill and said it would make a significant difference. The 17th Knesset passed a number of antismoking bills in 2007, most notably a ban on all smoking in public places that was initiated by MK Gilad Erdan (Likud). The new bills have had a noticeable effect on institutions such as restaurants and bars, which had to create special rooms with constant ventilation in order to allow smoking on the premises. Judy Siegel and Megan Jacobs contributed to this report.