The Knesset Health Committee met to discuss the report released by Deputy Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman addressing the cost of smoking to the Israeli economy in 2011.
To the surprise of many, the report states smoking costs the economy 8 billion NIS in 2011 while income generated by cigarette and tobacco tax amounted to 5 billion NIS.
Health Ministry Director-General Dr. Roni Gamzu took part in the session, telling members “I am the enemy to tobacco companies and anyone making a profit from tobacco sales”.
Prof. Gamzu explained that legal experts are studying a proposed bill that would compel cigarette manufacturers to make compensatory payment for treatment of patients diagnosed with cigarette-related illnesses. Officials explain that included in the cost to the economy from smoking includes medical treatment, hospitalization, disability pension payments, and the decline in tax revenue resulting from those afflicted with smoking related illness and are no longer members of the productive workforce.
Senior ministry official Chaim Geva-Hespeil explained that 6 billion cigarette butts are tossed annually, referring to those not placed in an ashtray or garbage receptacle, resulting in 64 children under the age of 6 being “poisoned” by butts they ingested after finding them on the street in 2011.
A major educational project that was to begin in the nation’s public schools to persuade students not to smoke will not happen due to the objections of Minister of Education Gideon Saar who refused to comply with the stipulation that in the 200 schools hosting the programs, school employees must be banned from smoking on school grounds. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu favored the program.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)