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Israel passes law banning smoking ads, repackaging smoking products

A wide-reaching ban on the advertising of cigarettes, cigars, hookah products, rolling papers, e-cigarettes and non-tobacco herbal smokeables was passed in a landslide vote in the Knesset.

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

A wide-reaching ban on the advertising of cigarettes, cigars, hookah products, rolling papers, e-cigarettes and non-tobacco herbal smokeables was passed in a landslide vote in the Knesset on the last day of 2018, in what its co-sponsors are calling a historic moment for Israeli legislation.

The law, proposed by Likud Knesset member Yehuda Glick and Zionist Union Knesset member Eitan Cabel, passed by a vote of 45-1, and will ban all advertisement of the items, except in print. Advertisements will still be allowed inside stores, which sell the products, and the use of images of smoking will be allowed for news and artistic purposes.

Along with the advertisement ban, tobacco products will now be required to be packaged in the color Pantone 488c, a muddy brown with a yellowish tint, which was found scientifically to be the least attractive color in the world. In 2016, Australia mandated that smoking products in the country be packaged using the color, in order to diminish the appearance of the items.

Packaging will also bear the words: “Warning—this product is very addictive and harmful to your health,” and “Warning—smoking causes serious diseases and premature death.”

The law states that the measures aim “to reduce the public’s exposure to smoking products” and is intended “to protect non-smokers, especially young people and former smokers, from the effects of advertising, including those that create a positive image of smoking products.”

According to Israel’s Ministry of Health, approximately 8,000 Israelis die every year due to smoking-related causes, including 800 non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke, which makes smoking one of Israel’s leading causes of death.

Studies indicate that Israel’s smoking rate fell from about 45 percent in the early 1980s to about 20 percent or less in the years since 2011, but has since risen to 22.5 percent as of 2016.

Right before the vote, Glick said the vote was “the most significant law passed in the 20th Knesset.

“This is about human lives,” Glick continued. “According to experts, this law will prevent 300 deaths a year. Someone dies from smoking-related causes every hour in Israel.”

Cabel added that “it was one of the most difficult laws I have ever passed. We were faced with tremendous forces of great influence, and we succeeded in leading a real revolution that would close up the rate of smoking for young people.”

One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Zionist Union MK Eyal Ben Reuven, said the passage constituted a “historic day and an important victory in the war we are waging against the phenomenon of smoking in Israel.”

Earlier this year, the Knesset forbade smoking in public places, including government offices, hospitals, health clinics, event halls, religious councils, municipality buildings, parking lots, zoos, concerts, amusement parks, sports venues and places of entertainment. The Knesset itself was not listed in the ban.

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