Israelis can breathe easy (or maybe not) because smoking at sporting events is still legal. Though it’s a violation of a World Health Organization convention, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni voted against a bill, drafted by MK Adi Kol, which would prohibit smoking in open stadiums, the Jerusalem Post reports.
Livni said that she wants to ensure that Israelis who are still addicted to tobacco have “elbow room” to “release their tension.” But it seems that not everyone is as sympathetic to the plight of the smoker as Livni.
Health Minister Yael German, who was also present in the committee, decided to appeal the decision in another meeting of the ministerial committee to be held on July 7. The Health Ministry has strongly backed the prohibition of smoking in public places, including sports stadiums.
Livni suggested that certain sections of the arenas could be reserved for non-smokers, but Amos Hausner, who is in charge of the Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking, was not amused, calling the idea “stupid.”
“The whole world is increasingly prohibiting smoke in open public places. Must Israel oppose this, as if we were the primitive ones? Livni should not have voted as she did before checking and realizing that she was violating an international agreement ratified by Israel,” he said.
Livni’s decision comes at a strange time, since according to Ynet, Israelis have actually been cutting back on smoking recently. A survey revealing decreasing numbers followed an Israeli ban on cigarettes in public.
After weighting by age and population groups, the survey found that 27.2% of Israeli men and 14.5% of Israeli women smoke. The smoking rate in the Jewish population is 19.8%, and in the Arab population – 24.9%.
But the ban isn’t always strictly enforced, which some, like German, believe is the reason the numbers aren’t even lower, the Jerusalem Post reported.
German called on the heads of local authorities to send in annual reports of the number of smoking fines served by inspectors – who nationwide primarily give parking tickets and fines against illegal food establishments and others. The municipalities are required by law to submit these reports but many don’t. According to figures, only 2,909 fines were given around the country in 2011.
Not all places have been able to avoid the fines though. In early June, Tel Aviv nightclub Bella Shlomkins was fined NIS 1 million for failing to abide by the smoking law, YNet reported at the time. The money was said to be donated to a cancer society.