(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
The many thousands of Israelis who quit smoking in recent decades owe their improved health and even lives to Tuvia Lehrer, the founder of the Israel Association for the Prevention of Smoking, who pioneered in teaching people addicted to tobacco to kick the habit. He died at age 80 late last week.
According to Amos Hausner, who is now head of the association, Lehrer “had tremendous patience and perseverance – fighting forces that were supposed to be 100 times stronger.”
He was referring to the tobacco industry.
“He turned smoking prevention and cessation into a science and art,” Hausner said. “The life of every individual who could have fallen victim to this damned plague was saved by Tuvia.”
Lehrer began his struggle in the 1970s when he founded the association.
“No one imagined that such a tiny body could pose a real threat to a capital-intensive, influential industry,” recalled Hausner, who is responsible for many anti-tobacco laws and lawsuits.
“Against all odds,” he continued, “the industry feared him, and rightly so. Not only in its profits, the blood gains from the victims’ lungs, he cut back; it gained the masses of the country welfare from the poison that was prevalent in public places.
We all owe him so much. He founded a whole movement.”
Lehrer worked on behalf of smoking cessation and prevention at the Health Ministry for years. Only a few weeks ago, he attended a meeting of the Israel Cancer Association, where he was active for years. He recently wrote a book about his life’s work. It is expected to be published soon.
He was also credited by the Cancer Association for helping to get important 1983 legislation passed that would prohibit smoking in public places. Israel was one of the first 10 countries in the world to have such a strict law.
Hausner added that it had been the Lubavitcher Rebbe who in his last years wrote to Lehrer about how much he valued the anti-tobacco activist’s saving of life.
Lehrer is survived by his wife, Ruth, and three grown children, including Channel 10 TV personality Guy Lehrer.