Bill Limiting Displays of Tobacco Products Passes First Hurdle

The next conflict is expected to be over cigarette packaging. The bill calls for uniform packaging without logos or pictures

Menthol cigarettes are seen for sale on a shelf at a store in Miami, Florida.
JOE RAEDLE/ GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

The public display of cigarettes and other tobacco products would be prohibited at corner stores and duty-free shops, under an article in a bill that was approved by the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee Wednesday.

One in 10 cigarettes sold in Israel are sold at the duty-free stores in Ben-Gurion International Airport.

To really understand Israel and the Middle East - subscribe to Haaretz

The draft law seeks to limit the promotion and advertisement of tobacco products.

The Knesset needs to pass the bill in order for it to become law.

The committee approved the article with 11 votes in favor. Zionist Union MK Lea Fadida was the only abstention.

The vote was preceded by a particularly raucous debate that was halted, and included a record 20 Knesset members, many of whom had not been present for any previous discussions. That session escalated into a yelling match.

Many Likud Knesset members were present, and they opposed the bill on the grounds that it would hurt convenience stores.

Ultimately, the Likud members were forced to vote for the bill due to coalition discipline.

Some 8,000 Israelis die of smoking-related illnesses every year.

During that discussion, coalition chairman MK David Amselem said that even though his wife died of lung cancer, and he himself smoked for 35 years and his son smokes, he didn’t think the proposal was the right direction.

“You don’t need to persecute smokers. Alcohol, sugar and air pollution kill more people,” he said. “An adult has a right to do what he wants.”

MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union), one of the initial authors of the bill, called the attempt to bring in claims of damage to minimarts “trolling.”

“This is a bill to reduce smoking rates. If the government wants to help minimarkets, I won’t object,” Cabel said.

The next conflict is expected to be over cigarette packaging. The bill calls for uniform packaging without logos or pictures. The tobacco industry and the mini markets object to this.

The bill was initially drafted by Cabel and MK Yehuda Glick (Likud).