Israel Bans Smoking at Public Events With More Than 50 People

Smoking will also be prohibited around hospitals or clinics. Move comes after state watchdog accused Health Ministry of neglecting public's health in favor of tobacco companies

A smoker at Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market
Ilan Assayag

The Knesset's Labor, Welfare and Health Committee approved new, stringent restrictions against smoking on Wednesday, accepting recommendations issued previously by the Health Ministry.

According to the new regulations smoking will be banned at parties and other public events where 50 or more people are attending, and smoking close to a hospital or clinic, ministry, government office, religious council, city hall or court will also be prohibited. Previously, smoking was allowed as long as one walked at least 10 meters away from the entrance.

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Smoking is also forbidden in an open space if more than 50 people gather there, which means smoking will be banned at rock concerts and festivals, even if they take place in open air. 

The new restrictions will come into force 60 days after their publication in Reshumot (the official government gazette).

Inmates of psychiatric hospitals are allowed to smoke in a separate, ventilated room as long as they do not cause nuisance to others. No smoking at all will be allowed in public parks for children, underground parking lots, zoos, although special areas for smokers could be available. Designated areas will also be arranged outside government offices.

If the news rules are violated, miscreants risk getting a fine of 1,000 shekels ($280) and the owner of the venue where they smoke can be fined 5,000 ($1.400).

It is worth mentioning, however, that enforcement of the new regulations is a matter for the municipalities, meaning that they can apply them more or less stringently by investing and instructing inspectors differently.

Today’s announcement followed a state comptroller report from just last month, accusing the Health Ministry of acting in the favor of the tobacco companies and neglecting the public’s health. Health Minister Yakov Litzman noted that smoking is bad for one’s health after the approval of the new norms.

The first anti-smoking law in Israel passed in 1983 and has since been amended several times. No-smoking zones now include restaurants, bars, cafes, malls, clinics and hospitals, workplaces, public transport and as of 2014 – stadiums too.

To help with the enforcement of the regulations, placing ashtrays in public venues has been banned too.