Smoking ban widely ignored on first day
JERUSALEM (August 2) - A tough new anti-smoking law went into effect yesterday, but you sure could not tell the difference at Jerusalem coffee shops, where smokers puffed away throughout the day.
According to the new anti-smoking regulations, smoking is now forbidden in restaurants, cafes, cinemas, theaters, and banquet halls - except in specially ventilated rooms away from other patrons.
The amended law also bans smoking outright in schools, hospitals, stores, and pharmacies.
But a survey of half a dozen Jerusalem coffee shops yesterday found that clients and workers as one were oblivious to the new law.
"Uh, the law went into effect today?" asked a dumbfounded manager on duty at the espresso bar on Derech Beit Lehem in the capital's Baka neighborhood, when asked why people were smoking in the coffee shop yesterday morning.
"Yeah yeah, we heard about the law, but we didn't know when it went into effect," answered a waiter at the coffee shop.
One element that added to the confusion was the decision by Health Minister Nissim Dahan to give offenders a two-month grace period before imposing the NIS 230 fines that offenders who break the law will receive.
"I heard that the law was delayed by two months," offered a middle-aged man who was puffing away over an espresso at the shop.
"Listen to me," said a man who declined to be identified. "I am a prosecutor and I better than anyone else know that some laws are meant to be broken. Otherwise society will become monstrous, abominable. In this instance, one should be allowed to live freely without the law intervening."
The scene was much the same in the city center in the string of coffee shops on Rehov Hillel.
"Yes, I did hear about the law, but still people are smoking as usual," said the manager on duty at the Aroma Cafe as the smell of smoke filled the room.
Asked if he would tell patrons to extinguish their lights, the manager, who gave his name as Moti, said he would need to receive specific instruction from his boss before doing so.
But the tide may be turning.
A recent poll found that 76% of Israelis said the rights of non-smokers outweighed those of smokers.
Even a majority of smokers themselves - some 55% - agreed.
"No one is smoking here," the manager of Hillel Cafe offered, though the smell of a cigarette just two tables away belied his words.
"No, no I haven't heard of the new law," the culprit, a middle-aged woman, responded when asked.
Another female smoker in the room, said, "What can I tell you? Maybe I'll go outside in the future." "That sounds like a great new law," one customer threw in, motioning to the smoke-filled air.
The huge ashtrays lining the counter tops of another coffee shop in town summed up the non-existent effect the new regulations had on their first day.
"Hey, do you have a light?" a patron asked.