The IDF is facing criticism in the Knesset for not doing enough to discourage smoking among soldiers, as well as making a profit from the sale of cigarettes on army bases, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Haim Geva of the Health Ministry told Knesset Anti-Drug Committee on Monday that while the military officially disapproves of smoking in the ranks, it rakes in as much as 30 to 40 percent of the proceeds from tobacco sales, amounting to tens of thousands of shekels a year at each base.
Committee head MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) said she was “not impressed” with the army’s efforts to reduce smoking among soldiers. She said that enforcement of rules limiting smoking and increasing anti-smoking education for soldiers will be discussed at the next committee hearing, in four months.
The habit is more prevalent among soldiers than the general population. The smoking rate in Israel among those aged 21 and over, as of 2014, was 19.8 percent, according to the National Health Survey. By contrast, the committee was informed that some forty percent of male soldiers smoke when they are discharged.
Speaking for the military, IDF chief nurse Maj. Oshrat Gozlan said it was not ignoring the problem. “We have various programs, such as SMS messages to soldiers that encourage them to kick the habit, and a quarter who get them in fact quit smoking.
“We provide free drugs to soldiers to help them quit. We have dozens of soldiers who run cessation courses, and the number of participants rises from year to year.”
The picture among career soldiers was quite different. Dr. Eilon Glazberg, head of health services in the IDF, testified that those who enter the professional army smoke half the amount of those who are discharged after completing mandatory service.
“It would be hard to find a senior officer or brigade commander who smokes,” he said.
During the hearing, Likud MK Yehudah Glick, who served in the army, noted that peer pressure was a major factor in soldiers’ taking up smoking. But, he said, “What was once thought to be legitimate should not be allowed today.”