In a further effort to discourage smoking, the Health Ministry intends to impose a total ban on cigarette advertising, to require illustrated warnings on cigarette packaging, and broaden a ban on smoking in public places.
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The plans were spelled out Wednesday by Itamar Grotto, deputy director general for public health services, at a session of the Knesset House Committee on efforts to combat drug abuse.
The announcement comes, however, nearly six years after the cabinet approved an anti-smoking plan which included some of the steps announced Wednesday that were never implemented.
Cigarette advertising is already banned in Israel on radio and television, but the ministry plans to extend these restrictions.
“Our decision is to ban all advertising, and that will also apply to the internet, a sweeping advertising ban on all media,” Grotto said.
With respect to an expanded ban on smoking in public places, which has already been applied to schools, hospitals and enclosed public facilities, Grotto said the ministry will now extend that to banning smoking in open-air stadiums, and extend the required distance a person who is smoking would have to stand from kindergartens and playgrounds.
The ministry is also of the view that the practice of allowing restaurants and bars to maintain separate rooms for smokers should be scrapped, Grotto said. He said the new policy should not require further Knesset legislation.
He also suggested that consideration was being given the possibility of banning adult passengers from smoking in a car that has children, but acknowledged this may be difficult to enforce.
The ministry is considering expanding services to help members of the public to quit smoking and intends to launch an advertising campaign among Israeli Arabs, as well. About 40% of Israeli Arab men smoke compared to 19% of the Israeli population as a whole (among those 21 and older).
Ministry reports blame smoking for the deaths of about 8,000 Israelis a year, including about 700 non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke. About 35% of non-smokers are exposed to second-hand smoke at places of employment the home, friends’ homes and public spaces.
Grotto also told the committee the ministry is promoting regulations that would treat electronic cigarettes the same as tobacco products. The issue of electronic cigarettes made headlines recently when Channel 2 disclosed that a fictitious electronic cigarette company had met with Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, a leader of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, in a session set up with the help of a journalist from the ultra-Orthodox Hamodia newspaper acting as an intermediary.