Health minister promises action to reduce smoking

The announcement comes days after a Channel 2 investigation showed aides to Litzman taking cash in exchange for meetings between him and a fictional importer of electronic cigarettes.

January 16, 2017 21:25
1 minute read.
Young men smoking near Ashdod

Young men smoking near Ashdod. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Israel Police may investigate Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman’s ties with tobacco and the Ger Hassidim daily Hamodia, Channel 2 reported on Monday night.

The Civil Service Commission’s disciplinary division reportedly told Channel 2 that the affair was worth looking into, and recommended that the police pursue the investigation because it wasn’t authorized to do so.

A Channel 2 investigation that aired last week showed aides to Litzman taking cash in exchange for meetings between him and a fictional importer of electronic cigarettes, inflaming allegations that the health minister has for years been unwilling to fight smoking.

Earlier on Monday, the health minister announced the creation of a committee to recommend guidelines for officials meetings with commercial representatives.

The ministry said that regulatory experts within “meet regularly with commercial interests to familiarize themselves with the market and set down and improve regulation” – even though Israel ratified the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which recommends that health officials in countries that signed it not be allowed to meet tobacco lobbyists and that any meetings held must be made public.

To “prevent confusion and regulate the relationship with commercial entities,” the ministry said, Litzman had appointed an external committee headed by attorney and former cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser, and including former deputy attorney-general Malchiel Ballas, and Health Ministry director- general Moshe Bar Siman Tov.

The ministry did not say whether the committee’s restrictions would apply only to ministry “regulators” or also to the health minister.

Despite the WHO regulations, Litzman and his associate deputy director-general Prof. Itamar Grotto both met with e-cigarette representatives and, previously, with Phillip Morris International Tobacco Company lobbyists without making it public, according to the Channel 2 report.

The ministry also announced that a ministry team to prevent smoking would soon “complete” its work and promote legislation that further limits public places where smoking is illegal; limits tobacco advertising, which Litzman has strongly opposed; adapts the regulation of e-cigarettes to what is accepted in Europe and the US; as well as implements other initiatives to encourage smoking cessation and increase public awareness of the dangers of smoking.

However, the ministry did not say that it would call for more vigorous enforcement of no-smoking laws, which is very lax to nonexistent in many places, from wedding halls to the platforms

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