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Israeli Health Ministry: Rising number of students smoking

According to the ministry, 64.5% of Israeli adults and 33% of non-smoking children are exposed to secondhand smoke.

Illustrative image. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.
Illustrative image. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.

An Israeli Health Ministry report on cigarette smoking released on Tuesday spotlighted a growing trend with grave consequences.

“It is estimated that in Israel the percentage of smokers is over 20% of the adult population, and that smoking is the cause of approximately 8,000 deaths per year, approximately 10% of which are among non-smokers who were exposed to the smoke of others,” said the report, which was submitted to the Knesset.

The annual report included data on smoking rates among adults, youth and soldiers and noted the collaborative efforts of government agencies, health insurance funds and civil society organizations.

“The fight against smoking requires a multifaceted approach, involving various stakeholders, and we are committed to implementing policies that promote public health for all age groups. Smokers are encouraged to seek free assistance to quit through the national call center for quitting smoking,” said Health Minister Moshe Arbel.

In a recent move, the ministry unveiled a comprehensive action plan for all tobacco and smoking products, including cigarettes and electronic cigarettes. The initiative aims to revamp regulations regarding content, appearance, sale and taxation of these products. Key recommendations include banning flavored tobacco products, enforcing nicotine concentration limits and requiring graphic warnings on all tobacco and smoking products.

The plan also calls for restrictions on the sale of disposable electronic cigarettes, raising the age of sale to 21 and reducing the number of points of sale.

“The entry of electronic cigarettes into the market significantly worsened the problem,” said Dr. Sharon Elrai Price, head of the ministry’s Public Health Division. “The availability and ease of using them today make them attractive among children and teenagers and the result [is] a jump in their use among children of younger and younger ages,” she added.

Key findings

The report found that 64.5% of adults and 33% of non-smoking children are exposed to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke refers to nonsmokers involuntarily inhaling smoke released into the air by active smokers. A Tel Aviv University study reported in August that nearly half of all Israeli families suffer from secondhand smoke entering from neighboring homes and balconies.

The university also reported in April that third-hand smoke is also more prevalent and dangerous to children than previously realized. Third-hand smoke refers to the residual chemicals in a cigarette becoming absorbed into the home environment as nicotine and other cancer-causing substances, embedded as dust in soft surfaces like clothing, furniture, rugs, bedding and plush toys.

The ministry also reported that the percentage of students who smoke at least once a week has risen, with 10% of tenth graders reporting use of electronic cigarettes at least six days in the past month.

According to the ministry, 10,115 reports and fines were issued for smoking in public spaces in 2022, an increase from the previous year.

Meanwhile, tax revenues from tobacco products totaled approximately 7.5 billion shekels ($1.97 billion) in 2022.

Approximately 330,000 Israeli smokers have sought assistance in quitting since 2010, when detoxification workshops and pharmaceutical support was introduced.

Globally, smoking-related deaths claim the lives of 8 million people each year, with half of all smokers expected to die from smoking-related illnesses.

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