"We're also having a hard time believing it, but as of today you can't smoke here," that's how patrons of the Silon bar in Tel Aviv who had drawn out a packet of cigarettes were informed of the new law by an apologetic waitress.
The reason: Bars have no choice but to prevent smoking on their premises or risk heavy fines. Clauses in the law, which came into effect on Wednesday, slap especially heavy fines on the smoker himself and the establishment owner. Will Israel really following in the footsteps of the rest of the Western world on this issue?
Customers at the bar on Ibn Gvirol Street were very surprised by the news. On the one hand, many welcomed it, saying it could encourage smokers to light up less while allowing everyone else to breathe cleaner air.
On the other hand, some said, the new sanction would force people onto the streets to cater to their nicotine habit, harming the fabric of night life in clubs and bars. Owners, on the other hand, present another problematic aspect: "Instead of smoking indoors, which troubles non-smokers, we will now clash with the neighbors over the noise the smokers will be making outside."
In accordance with the new clause, a customer who smokes in a public place in violation of the law can be fined $255. To avoid having to pay an additional fine, the owner of the establishment is required to spot smokers violating the law and demand they put out their cigarette. Should the request be met with refusal, the owner must alert municipal inspectors to fine the offender.
In addition, the owner must also demand that the smoker leave the premises and deny him any further
service. Owners who do not comply with the ordinance can expect a fine of $1,300.
Corporate managers who allow smoking in offices under their ownership can also expect to part with $255. Establishment owners of any kind who do not put up a no smoking sign in accordance with the measurements specified by the law will be fined $1,300.
Report: number of smokers declining
Meanwhile, a report published by the Health Ministry revealed that the number of smokers in Israel is continuously declining. A recent survey conducted in 2006-2007 found that 22% of Israeli smoke, a drop of 2.2% in comparison to a survey conducted in the years 2004-2005.
The poll included 3,154 participants aged 18 and over.
The first study on the subject that was held in Israel 37 years ago, found that 42% of the population were smokers.
According to the current survey, 80.3% of respondents believe that smoking should be prohibited in clubs, pubs and discotheques; 78.2% think it should be banned in cafes and restaurants and 84.8% want it to be restricted in malls.