Anti-smoking graphic images 248.88.
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About 10,000 Israelis die each year from smoking, 8,664 actual smokers and the rest from other people's cigarette smoke, according to Dr. Gary Ginsberg and colleagues who just published an article in the European Journal of Public Health.
Around 23 percent of the population over 18 smokes, and about half of all smokers eventually die of tobacco-related diseases.
The former head of the Health Ministry's Center for Disease Control, Prof. Manfred Green, who is now head of the University of Haifa's School for Public Health, had previously set the estimate considerably lower.
The previous official estimate of deaths among active smokers was 3,859 per year; the new calculation puts the real figure at more than twice that.
Ginsburg, an expert on health statistics at the Health Ministry, Dr. Eli Rosenberg of the ministry's health promotion unit and Tel Aviv University tobacco control expert Dr. Leah Rosen concluded from their calculations that the total annual rate is actually 20 times that of the road accident toll.
The US Centers for Disease Control supplies a widely used online user-friendly computational program called SAMMEC (Smoking Attributable Mortality, Morbidity and Economic Costs) to produce estimates of tobacco-related mortality.
However, the SAMMEC tool, write Ginsberg and colleagues, "loses accuracy because it lacks flexibility in deciding which diseases enter into the calculations, has estimates of relative risk attributable to smoking based on old studies and does not allow for the latency period that occurs between initial exposure and mortality."
The difference between the old estimates and the new one is attributable to expansion of the list of diseases included, updating the estimates of relative risk for smoking-attributable death and the use of smoking prevalence from previous years to more accurately reflect the effect of tobacco use on disease occurrence, the researchers write.
They add that "there is a need to establish an "authorityâ€š to implement a multi-faceted intervention strategy to decrease the considerable burden from smoking in Israel."
Amos Hausner, a prominent tobacco-control lawyer who heads the Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking, commented that much publicity is given by the media to less than two dozen deaths from swine flu. But smoking has a much more devastating toll among people of all ages.
"Preventing road accidents is very important, but that cause gets a great deal of state money, while reducing the number of deaths from tobacco gets almost nothing. Much more money must be allocated to reduce the death rate from smoking, and cigarette companies should be forced to pay for the health damage they cause," Hausner stated.