The head of the Health Ministry’s planning and evaluation department revealed this week that only 20.9 percent of Israeli adults smoke – significantly lower than the 22.8% figure provided by Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman during his annual Smoking Report to the media on June 1, The Jerusalem Post has learned.The lower figure – for 2009 – was supplied by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) on the basis of a study of 30,000 adults aged 20 and older in over 9,000 Israeli households. It was quoted by Anat Shemesh of the ministry at a meeting of the Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking on July 15.Until now, the ministry – including Litzman – has been quoting its 2008 survey results, which were collected by its own Center for Disease Control (CDC) and which showed a relatively small decline from the previous CDC survey figure. The CDC survey is based a sample about one-tenth the size of the CBS study’s, and comes out every two years, while the CBS survey is held once in 10 years. Prof. Tammy Shohat, head of the CDC, said it did not present the CBS figures at Litzman’s press conference because they were “still preliminary” at the time.Council chairman Amos Hausner, a long-time smoking-prevention lawyer, told the Post on Monday that if the smoking figures go as low as they are in the US, Israel should commit itself to observing the Bangkok Protocol of 2007, to which Israel is a signatory. The protocol calls for the elimination of smoking rooms.“This survey sample is very large, and valid,” said Hausner. He credited the “steep decline” in smoking to the 2009 increase in tobacco tax (which has increased further by NIS 2 per pack just recently) and the ongoing effect of the Erdan Law that set higher fines and made proprietors of public establishments responsible for enforcing nosmoking laws.“Today people do not smoke in most public places, and there is an increased interest in smoking cessation among the general public, as proven by the high demand for smoking cessation medications and courses [which are] now free in the heath basket,” he said.Hausner noted that if only one-fifth of the population smokes, there is no need for smoking rooms in public buildings; any remaining smokers can go outdoors. In California, Massachusetts and New York, where the smoking rates are between 14% and 18%, as well as in Australia, smoking rooms are illegal. In addition, part of tobacco taxes in California and Australia are dedicated to smoking prevention education and media activities. According to the CBS statistics, the smoking rate for those between the ages of 20 and 24 is 20%; for those aged 25 to 34 it’s 22.5%; for ages 35 to 44 it’s 24.2%; between 45 and 54 it’s 26.7% ; from 55 to 64 the rate is 19.5% ; from 65 to 74 it’s 13.4%; and only 5.2% at 75 and over. The average across all age groups is 20.9%.