(photo credit: )
On Monday at midnight, smoking became more expensive. A pack of Camels now costs
you NIS 22. A pack of Noblesse, Dubek’s classic Israeli smoke, will set you back
NIS 14.50. The cigarette tax makes up nearly three-quarters of the total retail
price after the latest hike of between NIS 1.50 to NIS 2 per pack. This is good
news, for smokers and for the rest of us.
Increasing cigarette taxes is
an international trend.
In New York City, for instance, as of July 1, a
pack of cigarettes costs a colossal $10.80, the highest price in the US. Hawaii,
New Mexico, South Carolina and Utah have also just raised cigarette taxes. In
April, Australia did the same.
Raising the cigarette tax is easy and
avoids the dangers of a major populist backlash. Smokers are a shrinking
minority. In Israel, 22.8 percent smoked in 2009, compared to 24.2% in
40% in 1970. In the US, the national average is a bit less than 20%.
importantly, there is little sympathy for smokers. Nobody really accepts
argument that the smoker is hopelessly addicted to a perfectly legal
The fact is that the nasty habit can be kicked using economic forces:
have shown a clear correlation between cigarette tax hikes and a
decrease in the
number of smokers. The latest tax increases nationwide in the US are
spur more than 140,000 adults to quit smoking, according to the Campaign
Tobacco-Free Kids. The Australian government estimated its larger
excise would cut the number of smokers by 87,000.
Attorney Amos Hausner,
who has spearheaded an anti-smoking campaign in Israel for several
there is a direct correlation between tax rises and a drop in the number
smokers here over the years, especially among youngsters who have less
are less attached to their habit.
Other methods work as well. Studies
have shown that printing gruesome pictures of cancer-infested lungs,
esophagi on cigarette packs deters, as do ad campaigns and limiting
accessibility to vending machines. By the way, none of these approaches
adopted by our political leaders.
The Treasury has consistently opposed
earmarking revenues received from the cigarette tax for antismoking
More must be done to educate.
Quitting is tough but not impossible if
And such encouragement is
ACCORDING TO a study published in 2009 by Gary Ginsberg in the
European Journal of Public Health
, about 8,500 Israelis die every year
Another 1,500 are killed by secondary smoke. Even if the number
is closer to 3,800 a year – an estimate made by Manfred Green, head of
University of Haifa’s School for Public Health – this is still many
than those killed in car accidents every year, and it’s a toll that’s
easier to prevent.
Laudable legislation banning smoking in public places
may limit the exposure of innocent strangers to secondary smoke. But
relatives who share living spaces remain victims. Also, smokers cause
accidents, are absent from work more and retire earlier due to
Smokers’ diseases are a burden on society. In 1998, Kupat
Holim Clalit, a health fund that serves about half of the Israeli
a NIS 7.6 billion damage suit against local cigarette manufacturers for
cancer, heart disease and other smoke-related illnesses. Based on this
which has yet to be heard by the courts, medical expenditures on
illnesses amount to NIS 2b. annually.
IN THE final analysis, however,
money can never heal the loss incurred by death. As Jewish tradition
each person is an entire world unto him- or herself. By choosing to
life-shortening activity, smokers deprive their friends, loved ones and
sometimes all of humanity of the unique contributions only they could
should have made. How dare they? Though resorting to a total ban on
sales would only give rise to a flourishing black market and criminal
smokers should be strongly encouraged to stop. A cigarette tax hike is
many welcome ways of achieving this objective.