What Is It With The Cigarettes?
We adjourned from the Rabbinute to Cafe Hillel the other day for a much-needed infusion of caffeine. While sipping our coffees, we saw a man at the coffee bar telling someone in both words (polite) and gestures (also polite) that she could not smoke inside the cafe.
The man at the coffee bar then gathered up his newspaper and left.
We looked over in the direction of the smoke, and saw a young woman sitting at a table, smoking a cigarette. Another table was between her and us. My husband asked her nicely not to smoke in the cafe as the smoke bothered him (he is actually allergic to cigarette smoke, and prolonged exposure always brings on a bout of bronchitis).
She shrugged, told him there was an ashtray on the table, so therefore she could smoke and if it bothered him, he could leave.
The young guy sitting at the table between us and her pointed out that there was a "No Smoking" sign on the wall and added that the smoke bothered him as well.
She pointed to the ashtray, shrugged again, and said the sign didn't apply to her.
The Husband, who was now getting steamed a bit, said in overly-patient tones that in fact, the law is that one cannot smoke in a cafe or restaurant unless the smoking section and non-smoking section are separated by a wall -- which was clearly not the case here.
At this point, our waitress comes over and butts in and tells the Husband that the customer can smoke here if she wants, and if he doesn't like it, he should go outside. The Husband points out that (1) everyone outside is smoking and (2) the law states that it is illegal to smoke in the general area, outside of a "smoking section."
The waitress argues with him, casting her disdain over her shoulder as she stomps away. The Husband raises his voice to address her retreating back about her misinterpretation of the law, and the waitress spins around to tell him indignantly that he need not raise his voice at her.
I refrained from asking her why she butted in in the first place.
The smoker has now lit up again and is puffing away. She adds her voice to the chorus, telling our neighboring table and us that its NOT against the law and she'll smoke if she wants to, and what makes us think we know what the law is, anyway?
The Husband shows her his police identification and tells her he is very familiar with the law. She puts out her cigarette.
The neighboring table thanks us for our part in this persuasion, and the young man there tells us that not only does he hate the smell of cigarette smoke, but he doesn't understand why his countrymen are so insistent on inflicting lung damage on themselves and the people surrounding them. It is one of the unfortunate aspects of Israeli life -- lots of people smoke. Our friends tell us that smoking starts in high school here, and certainly if not high school, then in the army.
I saw some evidence of this yesterday afternoon. A squad of young soldiers in uniform had converged on the ATM at our bank. ALL the young women were smoking. I understood from our friends that many girls smoke to kill their appetites and to try to stay thin. This was my mother's rationale in her youth -- smoking makes you thin and glamorous. The unfortunate result is both cancer and looking 20 years older than your real age. I wanted to tell the absolutely gorgeous blonde puffing on her cigarette that smoking would cause wrinkles and ruin her skin (never mind cancer--18 year olds think they'll live forever), but I didn't have enough Hebrew.
Last week, the Jerusalem Post published a "first" here in Jerusalem. A coffee shop was actually FINED for allowing someone to smoke on the premises. The patron asked the smoker to stop. The smoker refused. Then the patron asked the management to stop the smoker. The management refused to intervene. The patron then filed a complaint and the Municipality actually imposed a 2000 shekel fine -- which apparently had absolutely NO impact since we had to argue the point this week with both the smoker and the waitress.
Of course, the waitress had her own reason for defending in-door smoking: as we left, she was lighting up a cigarette.