The Knesset's Health Committee unanimously ratified a new decree Tuesday, banning smoking on or within ten meters (32 feet) of elementary and high school campuses nationwide - including in teacher's rooms.
The explanatory notes to the order, signed by Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), state that "age of onset of smoking is 15.5 for boys and 16 for girls. These are universally recognized norms which influence teenagers' decision whether to try smoking."
"The presence of smokers among staff constitutes a model which increases the likelihood that a student will choose to try it," the explanatory note continued. "In addition, schools that allow smoking arouse discontent among teachers, as student smokers demand the right to smoke in class."
In May, a Health Ministry study revealed that 19.8% of Israelis aged 21 and over smoked - nearly one-fifth of Israel's total population. About 35% of the survey's respondents, who are non-smokers, reported they are exposed to secondhand smoke.
Smoking is responsible for approximately 8,000 deaths in Israel per year - 700 of them among nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke.
In total, the direct and indirect cost of smoking to the Israeli economy is estimated at 12.8 billion shekels ($3.3 billion) a year.