Israel has joined an international protocol for the prevention of illegal tobacco traffic, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor signed the protocol on behalf of the state, as an addition to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which Israel ratified several years ago along with 176 other states.The ministry called illegal trade in tobacco a worldwide problem, as the proceeds are used to fund terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and other criminal organizations, as well as in money laundering. Such smuggling also leads to the loss of legitimate tax income and harms the effort to reduce smoking and its deadly effects on the population, the ministry said.The protocol makes it possible to combine international efforts to fight tobacco smuggling by increasing security in the trade of legal tobacco supplies. It will require that such supplies be marked and followed up so the authorities can identify where they were produced and where they are supposed to be sold. In addition, there will be licensing for “legitimate” tobacco merchants, and the sale of tobacco products on the Internet will be restricted. The signatories of the protocol can exchange information and extradite violators.Israel is the 42nd country – including European Union nations – to sign the protocol. The US, however, has not yet signed even the FCTC due to tobacco lobbying in the federal government.Now that Israel has signed, it must pass legislation to suit the protocol’s instructions, and then ratify that legislation.In addition to fighting smuggling and reducing the use of illegal funds for terror organizations, the protocol will help Israel better enforce limitations on the advertising and marketing of tobacco products, the ministry said.The Knesset Economics Committee is currently preparing a bill on the subject for second and third readings. The bill would amend the limitation of advertising and would limit the marketing of tobacco products. However, the ministry has not yet managed to close down legal smoking rooms in public buildings – something the vast majority of advanced countries have already done, forcing smokers to go outdoors to light up. Meanwhile, the ministry has warned the public against purchasing medical equipment and products from merchants, pharmacies and other places in the Palestinian Authority. On Wednesday, the ministry’s enforcement and supervision branch in the Galilee Triangle located a pharmacy that had illegally purchased goods – including epidermic needles, glucose-testing sticks and insulin pump equipment – from the PA.The ministry warned pharmacies and medical and dental clinics not to purchase unapproved medical equipment and drugs from the territories, as their quality was unknown and could thus endanger the public.