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Israel has long been in the forefront in using the court, to make progress in tobacco control, so it is appropriate that it has scored a world first with the application of a law enacted under the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The victory, in July, was about protecting a woman exposed to second-hand smoke in a Jerusalem restaurant. Israel has a tough law against smoking in workplaces, but it is poorly enforced by local government officials.
A local court first awarded the woman only nominal compensation by the restaurant’s owners, and there was no intervention by the district court in Jerusalem. However, on appeal to the high court of justice, a judge upheld her case and raised the compensation ten-fold to 1000 shekels (US$225), plus costs of more than twice that sum.
Health workers and, as in this type of case, non-smokers, have all too often seen how tobacco control legislation is only as good as the will to enforce its provisions. By demonstrating that a private individual can seek redress direct from the court, the case has given hope that Israelis can eventually enjoy a model, tobacco-free society.