A Israeli worker whose medical condition worsened due to "passive smoking" — namely exposure to the smoke of other peoples' cigarettes — shall be classed as a victim of a work accident, the Tel Aviv Labor Tribunal ruled earlier this month.

According to haaretz.com, Arie Cramer, 60, represented by attorney Alon Luria, has fulfilled an administrative task at the Transport Ministry since 1970. In 1997 he was moved to a new building. His new office was across from a lobby, occupied by a secretary who smoked heavily. The window and door of his office opened into the lobby and the smoke from her cigarettes entered his office.

That year the plaintiff came down with the flu. He returned to work but couldn't get better, because the smoke bothered him. The secretary rejected his pleas that she stop smoking in the workplace. She continued to smoke and none of her superiors ordered her to stop.

Cramer even contacted an occupational specialist at the Maccabi health services, and a doctor at the Health Ministry, who ruled that smoking at a workplace is illegal and that the smoke could harm him. After that a special room was designated as a smoking zone. But that room, which was used by many workers, also opened into the same lobby. Also, when he left his office, he found workers smoking throughout the workplace, which was saturated with smoke.

After being exposed to heavy smoke for a year and a half, Cramer petitioned to be recognized as a victim of a work accident. He claimed his condition, a chronic throat inflammation, had been exacerbated by his exposure to his colleagues' smoke.

The National Insurance Institute denied the correlation between his condition and the workplace, claiming it was based on his existing medical condition. It also said the influence of the workplace on development of his disease had been of far lesser importance than other factors.

But Cramer came to court armed with an expert opinion that his exposure to heavy smoking had caused him micro-traumas, which created his disease. Cramer had had sensitivity in his brachial tubes, but exposure to the cigarettes was responsible for worsening his condition, the expert ruled.

The expert calculated that 50 percent of the deterioration of his condition was due to the workplace, both to cigarettes and to smog in the industrial zone where his office was located.

The court reminded the courtroom that a work accident can happen by cause, or by exacerbation. Cramer proved to the court's satisfaction that his condition had been worsened by prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke, and therefore, the court ruled, his condition could be defined as a work accident.