Pack-a-day health minister puffs on idea to quit smoking

Ben-Yizri, who has a nonagenarian mother, said he has been smoking a pack a day since he was 18.

yaakov ben-yizri 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
yaakov ben-yizri 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Israel's pack-a-day smoking health minister, Ya'acov Ben-Yizri will present his Annual Report on Smoking - as required by law - to the public on May 31, the country's No-Smoking Day. The event will not be marked by any special activities as it usually is, because of "cuts in the ministry's information budget," the ministry spokeswoman said on Wednesday. The 78-year-old new minister said that he "is interested in the smoking cessation programs that the Health Ministry and the Israel Cancer Association offer. But at the same time, after decades of smoking, it is very difficult" for him to quit. Ben-Yizri's wife Hava said at the ceremony in which he was welcomed into office two weeks ago that she would be happy if he quit smoking. Ben-Yizri, who has a nonagenarian mother, said he has been smoking a pack a day since he was 18. His only concession to good health is that, being a traditional Jew, he has never smoked on Shabbat. But he admitted that when Shabbat nears its conclusion, he feels the pangs of nicotine addiction. The minister committed himself to avoid smoking when seen in public - although he has already been interviewed on TV while smoking in a car. Ben-Yizri also said that since he works 15 or 16 hours a day as minister and is constantly in meetings where smoking is barred by workplace laws, he has cut down his smoking by about half. Ben-Yizri said he "identifies" with the health message of the Health Ministry and the ICA that smoking is the world's primary preventible cause of death, "especially among young people." Fully 76 percent of the Israeli public do not smoke, but the ICA wants to minimize the smoking rate even further, as 10,000 Israelis die of smoking-related causes each year - about 2,000 of these are not smokers themselves but are exposed to second-hand smoke. ICA spokeswoman Nava Inbar said that the association has received numerous complaints from citizens about the health minister's smoking. "I think that as a public figure and minister who recognizes the war against smoking as an integral part of health promotion, it's important that he serve as a personal example. No-Smoking Day is coming, and it would be a good time for him to quit," she suggested. Health Ministry deputy director-general for information Yair Amikam said the minister promised "to seriously consider the possibility of quitting, and he will follow the existing techniques and may join one of them."