Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman .
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman “has crossed the lines and is working openly for a tobacco corporation,” accused Zionist Union MK Miki Rosenthal on Monday.
Rosenthal also urged the public not to buy iQOS, the heated-tobacco, smokeless cigarette now being sold in Israel by Philip Morris, after Litzman said he would not regulate its sale and use until the US Food and Drug Administration makes its examination and rules if the product is harmful.
Pending an FDA decision, the US has barred the sale of the product there, but Litzman decided otherwise after meeting representatives from Philip Morris, which has invested billions of dollars in the product.
Litzman’s public health experts reportedly opposed the minister’s decision strongly but did not come out publicly against it.
The World Health Organization, the Israel Medical Association and the Israel Cancer Association have all come out strongly against Litzman’s decision.
Rosenthal called on Attorney- General Avichai Mandelblit to begin an immediate investigation of the matter.
“As long as Minister Litzman continues to deal with tobacco and smoking, the public health is endangered and has turned into a toy in the hands of the tobacco corporations and lobbyists,” he said. “The minister is using his status and popularity, and the media [that advertise tobacco products] have joined him.”
Rosenthal added that the minister, who is religiously affiliated with Ger Hassidim, is using those personal characteristics to protect the interests of the group’s daily Hamodia newspaper, which receives advertising from the tobacco company.
At present, iQOS is heavily marketed to young people on the Internet and on smartphones.
It is generally permitted to smoke them anywhere, including in public areas, where smoking conventional tobacco products is subject to a fine of NIS 1,000 per violation.
Rosenthal charged that even after the minister was caught by Channel 2 TV receiving journalists playing the role of tobacco lobbyists, “Litzman – who is known to have direct links with Hamodia – has stubbornly and unconscionably stood with the dangerous tobacco corporation... I call on the public not to purchase [iQOS] despite the ministry’s lawlessness.”
No reply to a request for comment was received from the ministry by press time.