smokers - Tomer Appelbaum - May 30 2011
Smokers at a Jerusalem bus stop yesterday. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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The cabinet green-lighted yesterday a set of legislative amendments aimed at curbing tobacco use, including bans on smoking in public places, ahead of tomorrow's World No Tobacco Day.

Another measure, a price hike on cigarettes, was sent for review, while the Health Ministry said two further amendments will be submitted to the ministerial committee on the issue. The ministry intends to gradually implement the plan over the coming year.

Among the measures approved by the cabinet are a ban on smoking in public places that will include train stations and roofed bus stops, and will limit smoking in outdoor seating areas in restaurant to 15 square meters or 25 percent of the seating area.

The move is partly opposed by the Transportation Ministry, which wants bus stops removed from the ban.

The ban may later be expanded to include ministry buildings, public swimming pools, synagogues, churches and mosques, community centers, stadiums, amphitheaters and retirement homes.

Another proposal endorsed by the cabinet was to declare several high schools across the country as smoke-free, as part of a pilot program being tested together with the teacher's unions and the Health Ministry. These schools will ban smoking altogether, including in yards and teachers' rooms.

The cabinet also approved the establishment of a new anti-smoking unit at the Health Ministry, which will allow the ministry to enforce smoking without depending on local authorities and municipal inspectors; advancing legislative amendments to further limit tobacco products advertising; advancing legislative amendments to ban the sale of cigarettes in vending machines, and examining the option of marking tobacco products with graphic warnings and pictures, similar to some European countries.

The proposals are based on the report of a public committee appointed last year by Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman.

Litzman told a press conference yesterday that not all of the committee's recommendations were endorsed by the cabinet. One of the rejected measures was limiting the discounts on cigarette sales in Duty Free shops.

"The rest of the world allows duty free discounts on cigarettes and a concern was raised that terminating the discounts would increase smuggling," said Litzman. The Health Ministry recently announced its goals for 2020, which includes easing consumption of cigarettes and tobacco in Israel by 60 percent and cutting down smoking among army recruits by 45 percent.

The cabinet also held back from announcing an immediate 10 percent price hike on cigarettes, sending the proposal instead to the Finance Ministry and asking it to comment within 180 days. State income from taxation on cigarettes for 2010 is expected to reach NIS 5 billion, NIS 750 million of which will come from locally produced cigarettes and the rest from imports.