‘THE TOBACCO industry attempts to impede tobacco regulation have changed over the years, but have not abated – they have instead mutated, and on a global scale.’.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Two MKs have asked Attorney- General Avichai Mandelblit to open an investigation for criminal prosecution of the companies and individuals responsible for the manufacture, marketing, sale and promotion of cigarettes and smoking in Israel.
In a letter sent on Tuesday evening, Likud MK Yehudah Glick and Zionist Union MK Yoel Hasson wrote that every year, more than 8,000 Israelis die of causes directly connected to tobacco.
As a result, the Health Ministry is obliged by law to submit a Tobacco Report to the Knesset speaker by May 31.
Tobacco consumption – aided by the lack of deterrent taxation on rolling tobacco and the vigorous marketing of smokeless and other tobacco products – has increased by 13% in one year.
“The principle behind the criminal aspect of cigarette behavior is simple,” the lawmakers wrote. The actions of the companies and those who help them are “actually an attack on Israeli residents, which leads to the fact that more than one million of its residents use cigarettes.
Israel is therefore under attack. Our purpose is to prevent the destructive consequences of this attack.”
Cigarette manufacturers “know for sure and have known for decades that their products have caused and cause an unthinkable number of fatalities as a result of normal, customary and observed use of these products. The knowledge is not a guess; it is a matter of certainty. Nevertheless, the cigarette companies, even after this information is in their possession, again and again produce their products. The companies and individuals are working to the best of their ability to market them in Israel, all with the clear knowledge that there is certainty in the fatal outcome,” Glick and Hasson wrote.
According to the World Health Organization, more than half of all cigarette users will die as a result of this use.
Documents obtained from the major tobacco companies have shown that they are well aware of their criminal liability and have not denied it, the legislators continued.
In the past cigarette companies abroad have been forced to pay large amounts of compensation.
“In the State of Florida, they are still paying compensation as a result of the success of a class action against them,” the letter goes on. Providing legal arguments, the MKs said “the criminal prosecution against the cigarette companies fulfills the fundamental goals of the penal laws.”
Those who make and promote smoking, they concluded, should be punished severely to “match the justified feelings of the relatives of the victims, many of whom are widows and orphans, who also have to contend with the difficulties of subsistence and livelihood when the user dies as a result of the simple, customary use of this product.” The law can also deter people from smoking, said the MKs, who explained that they wrote to Mandelblit because they have a duty to “protect the Israeli public from deadly attacks on them, of which there is none more serious.”