Non-profit: Remove health minister’s authority on tobacco

Petition cites minister’s ‘personal connection’ • ‘We reject the claim’ spokesman says.

Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Avir Naki, a nonprofit that fights for the rights of nonsmokers for clean air, has petitioned the attorney-general to take away the Health Ministry’s authority in all matters related to smoking and tobacco products.
The organization, headed by attorney Guy Ofir, also sent copies of the four-page letter – plus documentation – to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman and his director-general, Moshe Bar Siman Tov.
Ofir asked Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to give orders to Litzman to desist immediately from any handling of the matter, including legislation and regulation, and to hand the authority over to another minister because of Litzman’s “personal connection” to a number of issues relating to tobacco.
They include the “handing over of envelopes with cash” by journalists at Channel 2, who said they were representing a tobacco importer and wanted an “immediate meeting” to be arranged with the health minister. The meeting was expedited by a man from the Agudat Yisrael daily Hamodia.
Ofir said that “according to the Channel 2 investigation, the minister is personally associated [at least indirectly] with involvement, among other things, in the receipt of payments linked to promoting this speedy meeting with him.”
Avir Naki argued that Litzman was forbidden to meet “secretly” with tobacco company representatives according to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which Israel has ratified.
Asked to comment, Health Ministry spokesman Eyal Basson said the ministry has worked over the years and is working to fight the scourge of smoking including under the present minister. The proof of this is the continued trend of a decline in the rate of smokers in Israel, he said.
“We reject the claim that the position of the ministry or of the minister is not objective.
This position is set according the latest information including the positions of leading professional groups in the world. There has been no compromise in this crucial struggle for the public health.”