The government approved Sunday a plan to establish a unit within the Health Ministry to help reduce smoking in Israel.
The plan includes expanding smoking limitations in public spaces, including bus and train depots; increased fines and barring the placement of cigarette machines in public places. One of the goals will be to cut down the number of smokers by 8% within eight years.
The new plan also calls for revised warnings on cigarette packs, as well as new guidelines for labeling tobacco products.
The ministers, however, were divided on the subject, with some describing the new measures as overly harsh.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said he will "support any plan that would limit smoking in Israel because this is a major problem."
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said he supported the general outline of the plan, but added he expects whatever measures the government decides to apply to transportation depots, to be coordinated with the Transportation Ministry.
"I don't want to have a toothless law that the public cannot follow," he said.
National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, however, disagreed, saying the proposed measures were too harsh: "We have to find a reasonable balance for this… I have a feeling some of the measures the government is promoting are too harsh."
The Health Ministry, which formulated the plan, said that the proposed measures coincide with guidelines dictated by the World Health Organization Convention on Tobacco Control, which Israel is party to.
According to the Health Ministry, the cost amounts to 0.2% of the State's income from tobacco, which in 2009 came to NIS 4.1 billion ($1.17 billion).
The cabinet has asked the health minister to submit and amendment to the existing anti-smoking legislation within 90 days.
Is addition, the Treasury will explore the current taxation on tobacco and will submit its recommendations to the government within 90 days.
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