Cigarette vending machines to be banned starting in 2014

After Health Ministry presents plan to cabinet to reduce number of smokers, a private initiative takes another stab at curbing tobacco use.

311_ciggies (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
On January 1, 2014, vending machines will be allowed to sell things like postal stamps, envelopes, chewing gum and cold drinks – but not cigarettes or other tobacco products.
The Knesset Economics Committee on Monday approved a private member’s bill initiated by MK Uri Ariel (National Union) for its second and third (final) reading in the plenum. It was an appropriate way to mark World No Smoking Day on Tuesday, May 31.
Thus, yet again, the effort to reduce smoking has come from private initiative and not from the Health Ministry. Only on Sunday did the ministry present to the cabinet a plan to reduce smoking below the current 23 percent of adults that included a proposal to prohibit cigarette vending machines, but the private bill beat the ministry to it. In the meantime, an initiative by MK Carmel Shama- Hacohen (Likud) to keep the automatic machines distant from educational institutions was approved as well. The health minister will have the responsibility for determining how far the machines must be from vending machines until they are made illegal.
According to legal experts working to fight tobacco use, the health minister has long had the power to require tobacco vending machines to be barred from the proximity of educational institutions and other crucial locations but had not exercised this power.
The committee session was noisy, as vendors selling cigarettes to all comers said that they would lose money, as they had taken out loans to buy the machines and needed to get their investment back. The vendors want the deadline to be in 2017.
Ilan Levy, who represented the vendors, said that “only 3 percent” of cigarette sales are via the machines. But according to the law, tobacco products may not be sold to minors. While this can be enforced at kiosks and shops, it cannot be at vending machines. Levy suggested that vending machines be put behind a counter, but Ariel opposed this, saying there would be no public supervision of sales.
Ministry director-general Dr. Ronni Gamzu suggested that the private bill bar machines at the beginning of 2013, but Shama-Cohen, who heads the committee, suggested that 2014 be agreed