New no-smoking law goes into effect today
JERUSALEM (August 1) - Non-smokers will breathe easier starting today and smokers will find their rights severely curtailed, when smoking is barred in all public places around the country.
Health Minister Nissim Dahan said yesterday that during a two-month introductory period, violators will receive notices informing them they are breaking the law. The law prohibits smoking in hospitals and medical clinics, elementary schools, and all public areas in shopping malls.
If they wish, owners of cinemas, theaters, lecture halls, restaurants, cafes, waiting rooms and high schools may establish separate smoking rooms with walls up to the ceiling and proper ventilation. Signs barring smoking in all public areas must be posted immediately.
Dahan, who signed the law three months ago, said that second-hand smoke has been proven to cause diseases and premature death in non-smokers, whose right to clean air will now be protected.
Dahan told reporters that the ministry will keep a careful eye on municipalities, which, along with the police, are charged with enforcing the rigorous law.
"If enforcement is not carried out properly, we will look into the possibility of changing the law," he said, "and of transferring responsibility from the municipalities to other bodies, among them the Health Ministry itself, which could set up a team of inspectors."
The fine for violations is set at NIS 230. If a city inspector issues the ticket, the municipality will pocket the money.
Asked if the Jerusalem Municipality, which has not increased the number of inspectors to enforce the new law, would want to transfer authority for enforcement to another body, the municipal spokesman said it would "prefer to enforce the law itself if the state provides the necessary financial resources" for paying inspectors' salaries. The spokesman's office said that it would insist on such resources to pay salaries, even though the fines would reach the city's coffers.
Even in the introductory period, smokers will be fined in places where smoking was already banned: pharmacies, elevators, taxis, buses, banquet halls, grocery stores, and supermarkets. Smoking has also been forbidden for several years in all workplaces except for in separate, well-ventilated smoking rooms; these rooms must now be walled off up to the ceiling from other areas, and no smoker can declare his office a "smoking room" if a non-smoker works or is otherwise present in it. This means that instead of having to remember where smoking is permitted or prohibited, people will know that it is barred in all indoor public places, except for designated smoking rooms in some facilities.
Amos Hausner, legal advisor of the Israel Society for the Prevention of Smoking, who is credited with pushing through much of the country's anti-smoking legislation since the first law in 1983, welcomed the new law. "We expect that it will improve the quality of life in Israel and reduce the number of deaths from smoking," which now exceed 10,000 a year.
A NIS 1.5 million public education campaign will be launched by the ministry a week after the law takes effect. Ministry spokesman Ido Hadari denied that the ministry's information branch is "unprepared" to start on time, because officials had thought Dahan would postpone implementation by a few months after restaurant owners protested they had not had time to set up separate smoking rooms, and that the launch was delayed because "the media are talking about the new law now anyway."
The campaign, funded by the ministry, the Israel Cancer Association, and Kupat Holim Leumit, will last for two or three weeks, with the aim of informing the non-smoking public of its right to clean air and bringing smokers up to date about aspects of the law. The Gitam advertising agency has been hired for the campaign, but so far no details have been revealed by the ministry.
The ministry hopes that non-smokers will stand up for their rights, as municipal inspectors and police have so far been generally unwilling to answer calls to ticket violators.