Flames fanned over stairwell smoking

Tel Aviv city inspectors may be busy catching and fining people for the offense of smoking in public buildings, but City Hall itself seems to be blowing rings at the law, reports www.mynet.co.il. Municipal employees are allowed to smoke unhindered in the 11-story windowless western stairwell, and anyone choosing to take the stairs faces a "thick cloud of cigarette smoke." According to the report, municipal employees smoked freely throughout the building until the law against smoking in public buildings took effect in November 2007. Since then, city managers have allowed smokers to use the western stairwell, although they have kept the eastern stairwell smoke-free. The report said it was "ridiculous" that there were signs posted throughout the building not only prohibiting smoking, but also encouraging visitors and employees to use the stairs rather than the elevators for health reasons. "It is simply laughable," one of the building's 3,000 employees said. "Workers and residents are being urged to go up stairs full of cigarette smoke." The report said it should be noted that Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court Judge Rahamim Cohen, in a precedent-setting case a month ago, ruled that smoking is prohibited in stairwells. Cohen said that although the smoking laws did not define what a room was (for the purposes of providing a special room for smokers,) a stairwell could not be considered a room. The report also said that smoking in stairwells was in breach of fire safety standards, and that using a stairwell for any purpose other than as an escape route during an emergency was prohibited. A municipal spokesman responded that the matter was being examined by the city's human resources department, legal team and other officials, and that an agreement would be reached and instructions would be issued in coming days.