Where there is smoke…

In Israel it’s illegal to smoke in indoor venues such as pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants. Typically there are no-smoking signs at the venue. Often they are ignored, and as the night goes on, the (death) pall of smoke grows, and grows. (A cynic might suggest that no DJ needs a dry ice machine to create a smoky atmosphere.)

Since both my daughters enjoy celebrating birthdays at clubs, over the years I have seen this scenario for myself. We all know that passive smoking kills. So what kind of mentality is it that persists in such behavior?

A couple of times, when some of my daughters’ friends lit up too close to me for comfort, I have directly tackled the issue. But I have never had a satisfactory explanation.

My understanding is that the venue faces the penalty if enforcement officers catch them ‘at it.’ But I also understand that most clubs – in particular – are set up so that the security men at the front door can pass a message inside, should they be raided. Owners do not seem to want to stop customers smoking. If they did, there would be none of it. They should be ashamed.

The more alert of you will have worked out that the real sufferers may be the poor employees, forced to work in such dangerous environments. What do you think happens if an employee complains?

So, it’s up to the public – most of whom seem to have a combination of a death wish and a disinterest in looking after their health – to exert pressure. And therefore, there is next to no pressure to sort the situation.

However, there may be some good news on the horizon, according to this report from the Jerusalem Post, from which I offer the following extracts:

The Bella Shlomkin’s club, which two years ago was ordered by the Central District Court to pay the Israel Cancer Association NIS 90,000 for failing to ensure no smoking on the premises, received an unpleasant surprise on Thursday.

The Supreme Court, sitting as the Court of Civil Appeals, decided to increase the Tel Aviv club’s compensation payment in a class-action suit to NIS 1,160,000, “to be used to fight and prevent lung cancer.”

The unprecedented ruling, according to lawyer Amos Hausner, chairman of the Israel Society for the Prevention of Smoking, is likely to be used against all owners of premises that fail to enforce no-smoking laws, including those related to illegal open-air smoking. Hausner presented the original case against the club and appealed the relatively small size of the original compensation.

Hitting offenders with a meaningful financial penalty is one way to get their attention. Well done, that court!

And to put the issue in context:

The ICA, which was originally supposed to receive only NIS 90,000 plus lawyers’ fees, warmly welcomed the Supreme Court ruling by Justices Miriam Naor, Neal Hendel and Zvi Zylbertal on the basis of a hearing held on May 20 of this year. It said it would use the money for expanding its broad activities against tobacco, which is the No. 1 preventible cause of death in Israel.

And to reinforce my personal experience of owners’ attitudes:

One witness testified that he was ejected from the club by manager Ron Fire after asking that the incessant smoking of customers be stopped.

For everyone’s sake, let us hope that this does mark the start of a trend that ends smoking in public places.