Bill Takes on Illegal Smoking in Public

Fines on illegal smoking in public places will increase to between 1,000 and 5,000 shekels from 310 to 630 shekels, according to a bill the Knesset Economics Committee discussed yesterday. The committee is expected to approve the draft law at its next meeting, before the second and third readings. The committee discussed the bill yesterday to mark today's international no-smoking day. It was submitted by MKs Gidon Erdan (Likud) and Yoel Hasson (Kadima).

Erdan said it is the right of the non-smoking majority to protect its health. The bill does not alter prohibitions on smoking in public places, but improves enforcement by threatening penalties on business owners who fail to summon an inspector if they see a customer smoking where there is a prohibition. The committee approved a number of sections in the bill, including fines of 1,000 shekels on illegal smoking in public places.

A penalty of 5,000 shekels will be levied on a business owner who fails to ask a smoker to stop and who fails to summon municipal inspectors. A business owner who places an ashtray in a public place where smoking is banned will be fined 1,290 shekels. A business owner required to place a no-smoking sign and not doing so will be fined 630 shekels.

Smokers in a public place where a sign prohibiting smoking is hung are currently subject to a fine of 310 shekels.

A senior source in the Union of Local Authorities said, however, that local authorities would be unable to uphold the law as long as there is no budget for employing additional inspectors.

"The Local Authority is always the weak link. The Interior Ministry and treasury must allocate positions and financing to implement the law, which we welcome. The authorities are undergoing a recovery plan, and it is the easiest thing in the world to place responsibility for enforcement on their shoulders. Local authorities don't have the strength to enforce the laws."