Ban on smoking in public places to see significant expansion Saturday
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Ban on smoking in public places to see significant expansion Saturday

New Health Ministry rules will bring tough new limitations to where smokers can get their nicotine hit

Illustrative photo of people smoking cigarettes. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of people smoking cigarettes. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

New rules are set to go into effect Saturday night that will significantly expand an already existing smoking ban in public places.

Under the new Health Ministry guidelines, which go into effect September 1, smoking will be entirely prohibited — including in any previously specially designated areas — in government offices, courts, religious councils, hospitals and clinics.

It will also be banned at concerts, conferences, demonstrations and any open-air event of more than 50 people, swimming pools, open-air sports facilities, playgrounds, zoos, entrances to preschools and in closed car parks.

Institutions will be allowed to set a smoking area at a distance of 10 meters from the entrance.

Local municipality inspectors will be authorized to hand out tickets of NIS 1,000 to private individuals and NIS 5,000 to owners of public spaces where the rules are broken.

“We view smoking and the harm it causes as a danger to the public’s health, and the decree’s expansion will strengthen our battle against smoking out of concern for the citizens,” Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said in May when the new guidelines were decided.

The move was pushed by the Health Ministry after years of accusations of inaction in the face of an epidemic that claims thousands of lives in Israel every year.

In line with global trends, the smoking rate in Israel fell from about 45% in the early 1980s to about 20% or less in the years since 2011. However it has made a comeback in the Jewish state in recent years, where overall tobacco usage rates outpace those in comparably developed countries.

According to an official Israeli government report, sales of tobacco for water pipes rose 28 percent from 2016 to 2017. In the same time frame, sales of loose tobacco grew by 9.3%. The World Health Organization reports that 25.4% of Israelis aged 15 and older smoke tobacco; the global average is 21.9%.

Tobacco usage is particularly prevalent in the Israeli military. According to a 2017 study, 36.5% of Israelis smoke at the time of their discharge from the army, in comparison to 26.2% before being drafted.

Tobacco use is also particularly high in the Arab community.

A 2009 analysis showed that smoking rates among Jewish men and women were 27.9% and 16.6%, respectively. Among Arabs, the corresponding rates were 48.8% and 5.2%. A 2017 article reported similar findings.

JTA and Michael Bachner contributed to this report.

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