Already an “endangered species” in the public realm, life will get even more difficult for smokers, if Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman has his way. Rabbi Litzman is seeking to impose even more restrictions on smokers, including banning smoking even from spaces where it is currently permitted, increasing taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products, and bigger fines on individuals who smoke where smoking is banned.
Smoking in public in Israel was banned nearly a decade ago, with smokers restricted to specific spaces in restaurants, bus stations, places of entertainment, banks, malls and offices. Under current rules, the proprietors of establishments that choose to allocate spaces for smokers must ensure that no second-hand smoke escapes to bother non-smokers. Setting up such spaces is not mandatory, and many businesses and offices ban smoking on their premises altogether. The new regulations proposed by Health Minister Rabbi Litzman would eliminate the possibility of allocating those spaces altogether.
The ban would also apply to open-air venues, like stadiums. And individuals who want to smoke outdoors would have to do so beyond a perimeter of ten meters (32.8 feet) from the entrance to a building. Fines on those violating the bans would be increased, and more inspectors would be hired to ensure that no smoking takes place in hospitals, or government and public institutions.
In addition, tobacco companies that advertise their products in newspapers or online (advertising in broadcast media was banned over a decade ago) will be slapped with requirements to place ads of the same size pointing out the dangers of smoking. Also banned will be toys or food that resemble tobacco products (like candy cigarettes or cigars), and companies will be banned from distributing free cigarettes.
Health Minister Rabbi Litzman presented his ideas at a meeting of the Knesset Health Committee, and was highly praised for his ideas. The Israel Cardiologists Organization said that “as doctors who deal daily with the ruinous effects of cigarettes, we praise the minister for his efforts. Israel loses 8,000 people a year to the ravages of smoking, and any effort to reduce the number of smokers is welcome.” The Israel Cancer Organization said that the new rules should be enacted as soon as possible, a sentiment echoed by the Israel Public Health Organization.