Smoking incidence on rise

    The incidence of smoking among Israeli residents aged over 18 increased from 19.7 percent in 2015 to 22.5 percent last year, according to a story in Ha’aretz relayed by the TMA.

    The increase means that the number of smokers in Israel rose by about 120,000 to about 1.2 million.

    According to figures released on June 1 by the Israeli Health Ministry, 2016 was the third straight year in which the incidence of smoking had increased.

    Among Israeli men, the incidence of smoking was 31.1 percent last year, while it was 15.8 percent among women.

    Twenty-three-point-four percent of Israeli Arabs and 22.3 percent of Israeli Jews were smokers last year.

    But the incidence among Arab men was 43.9 percent, 1.6 times the rate among Jewish men, while the incidence among Arab women was 9.8 percent and that among Jewish women was 17.7 percent.

    The smoking incidence declined among male soldiers from 30.6 percent in 2012 to 24.8 percent in 2016, and it fell among female soldiers from 23.3 percent to 14.9 percent during the same period.

    Meanwhile, the number of Israelis who enrolled in stop-smoking programs was said to have risen by four percent last year.

    Health Minister Yaakov Litzman has said he will introduce shortly a package of measures aimed at reducing smoking rates, including a possible tax hike on roll-your-own tobacco.

    Israel imposes a much lower tax on cut tobacco than on cigarettes, which is said to have led to a rise in the consumption of RYO cigarettes in the country.

    The health ministry estimates that smoking claims about 8,000 Israeli lives annually and costs the economy 12.9 billion shekels (US$3.6 billion), or 1.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.