Silhouetted Israeli soldiers from the Home Front Command Unit take a smoking break during an urban warfare drill inside a mock village at Tze'elim army base in Israel's Negev Desert June 11, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
The Health Ministry’s enforcement and supervision unit and the Israel Police will try to prevent the distribution of free cigarettes by tobacco firms at Mount Meron on Lag Ba’omer.
Over 100,000 people are expected Wednesday night and Thursday at the ancient site of the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai near Safed. In previous years, representatives of tobacco interests have broken the law by distributing free smokes to the celebrants, but the law was not enforced.
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, who has been criticized for being lenient to tobacco companies in pushing their products, said on Tuesday that the ministry “is acting in accordance with its powers and in coordination with law enforcement agencies to prevent the recurrence of the phenomenon of free distribution of cigarettes at Meron on Lag Ba’omer.
Some ministry officials are being investigated by the Israel Police’s Lahav 433 unit regarded alleged malfeasance regarding tobacco.
Last year, he continued, at least one tobacco company set up a huge tent at Meron, ostensibly for comfort and refreshments, giving free cigarettes in exchange for completing a questionnaire.
Young people who are not aware of the serious health hazards of smoking, said Litzman, are tempted to enter the pleasant and shady area, to relax in comfortable armchairs and to smoke calmly, while sipping a cup of fine coffee. They also get sweet pastries – all free – but with the intention of introducing them to the world of tobacco and smoking.”
In an urgent appeal sent to Litzman and to the head of the Merom Hagalil Regional Council, Amit Sofer of the Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] Forum for Health warned about the “illegal marketing trick. Not only do they want young people to become acquainted with smoking, but they are engaged in positive and experiential conditioning and manipulation to make them loyal customers of tobacco companies, and young people are not even aware of it.”
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