Health Ministry: Smoking Costs Israel NIS 1.6B Annually

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Approximately 8,000 Israelis die each year from smoking-related diseases, a study by the Health Ministry said. The report, released in advance of International Non-Smoking Day Wednesday, urges Israelis who still do smoke to quit.

According to the report, the diseases caused by smoking include various forms of cancer, respiratory illnesses, heart problems, stroke, and more. Israelis spend more than 350,000 days annually in hospitals for treatment of smoking-related illnesses, and treatment costs the health system over NIS 1.6 billion a year, the report said.

There was some good news, however. The study cited statistics from recent reports that show that many Israelis have quit smoking in recent years. Currently, only 15 percent of Israelis age 18 and older smoke, according to a report by the Israeli Medical Association and published in Yediot Aharonot.

It appears that social sanctions against smokers, combined with more awareness of the health risks involved in smoking and the high price of cigarettes, are having their effect. Among those who do smoke, 24 percent said they started at age 16, while 12 percent said they started at age 20, and 5 percent at age 30. Among non-smokers, 71 percent have never smoked, while 12 percent said they stopped a decade or more ago, and 4 percent have been off tobacco for a year.

Israelis are famous for their hard to break smoking habit, but in actuality there has been a sharp decrease in the rate of smoking in the country, the study shows.

The poll was taken in conjunction with No Smoking Day, which will be commemorated Wednesday. The day is dedicated to seminars and activities discouraging smoking among all age groups, especially the young.