Due to strong lobbying by the duty free shops at Ben-Gurion Airport and the tobacco companies, the limit of one carton of tax-free cigarettes Israelis traveling abroad will be allowed to purchase – instead of the current two – will take effect only on April 24.

The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – which Israel ratified – calls for the complete barring of duty-free tobacco products at airports and seaports.

The Knesset Finance Committee approved on Monday morning the Finance Ministry’s orders to halve the number of cigarette cartons allowed for sale without duty. The Health Ministry recommended that no tobacco products at all be given duty-free status, but pressure from vested interests watered down the legislative action. The duty-free chain James Richardson told the committee that without such cigarette sales, their profits would plummet and airport taxes for passengers would rise.

The committee did not take into account the billions of shekels a year that treating tobacco-related diseases cost the public purse.

The exemption for importing tobacco and alcohol via duty-free shops and the limitation of one carton will be given only to adults over 18, starting April 1, 2013.

Meanwhile, the order will also minimize smoking of nargileh (water pipes or hookahs) by minors. Experts view smoking tobacco through water pipes as even more dangerous to health than using cigarettes. It has also been linked to dangerous behaviors such as taking drugs, drinking alcohol and violence.

The tax on nargileh tobacco has already been hiked immediately by 130 percent, and this figure will skyrocket to a total of 500% in three years. In actual terms, the tax will rise from NIS 10 per packet to NIS 35. The tax on cigars will also rise.

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