Israel: A global leader in smoking legislation

  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Across most nations, smoking remains the number one preventable cause of death today. It is estimated that 7 million deaths occur annually as a direct result of cigarette usage, with a further 1.2 million people losing their lives from passive smoking exposure. By 2030, the direct deaths from smoking are predicted to rise to 8 million if this devastating trend continues. 

One of the most successful countries for tobacco legislation is Israel. Their government has implemented a broad range of innovative smoking prevention techniques which continue to pave the way in global tobacco policies. 

Israel’s achievements in smoking legislation have been recognised with great optimism, whereby in May 2019, the World Health Organisation granted the World No Tobacco Day Award to the Smoke-Free Israel organisation. In the awarded letter, the WHO praised Israel for its action, stating that the country’s initiative has been enough to “inspire other countries” to “undertake (the) next bold steps in putting health first”.

Smoking Trends in the UK

In the UK, 14.1% of people aged 18 years or older smoked cigarettes in 2019, equating to 6.9 million of the population. Although this rate had fallen from 14.7% in 2018, there were a reported 1.9 million smoking-related hospital admissions in 2019 and 2020. 

It is estimated that smokers cost the UK economy a sweeping £12.6 billion a year, which covers costs to the NHS and social care services, as well as business losses from reduced productivity and premature deaths. Not only is smoking damaging the health of individuals and significantly impacting the UK economy, but the environmental consequences are equally substantial. From deforestation to discarded cigarette butts in our seas and oceans, smoking poses a range of severe threats for ecosystems across the globe.

Fortunately, there are a number of annual stop-smoking campaigns in the UK with online e-cigarette stores such as even offering a free quit smoking  programme in support of Stoptober. 

Their campaign, named Switch2Vaping, offers a free vaping kit and e-liquids alongside one-to-one mentoring through phone, text, and email to help people quit. 

“ have always promoted vaping as a safer, healthier alternative to smoking. When we saw that the pandemic had caused an increase in smoking rates, we knew we had to try and do something different to drive people to more effective methods of quitting. Our Switch2Vaping programme ensures that those who want to give up smoking have all of the necessary tools available to do so.”  - Jane Buxton, General Manager. 

It is abundantly clear that smoking has a significant burden on the UK, and one which will only exacerbate if these campaigns government regulations fall short in effectiveness. How has Israel managed smoking legislation throughout the years, and what can the UK learn from their legal tactics? 

The History of Smoking Legislation in IsraelFor a long time, Israel has had a creditable hold on the control of tobacco use. Seven decades ago in 1952, Israel set out taxation for the basis of consumer product tax, which was later broadened to control tobacco use. In 2013, both the type and amount of taxation had skyrocketed to 90% for cigars, 80% for cigarette packs, 36% for roll-your-own (RYO) products, and 33% for nargila, also known as shisha smoking

During the early 1980s, Israel became a global leader in tobacco control, having introduced several powerful legislations that still remain today. As specified under the Restriction on Advertising and Marketing of Tobacco Products Law, and the Prevention of Smoking and Exposure to Smoking in Public Places Law, Israel prohibits all advertising of tobacco in the media, and smoking remains illegal in most if not all public places. 

The first of the aforementioned laws includes a ban on tobacco advertising in radio and television broadcasts, newspapers, public performances, as well as public inland transportation. This law was further amended in 2004, whereby the sale of tobacco products was prohibited to those under the age of 18. To further encourage people to quit and deter others from smoking, tobacco vending machines are also prohibited. 

A ban on smoking in educational institutions, cinemas, theatres, medical buildings, elevators, as well as buses and taxis are all included under the latter of the two laws. 

Overtime, the Prevention of Smoking and Exposure to Smoking in Public Places Law was extended to include a ban in places including restaurants, bars and pubs (not including outdoor smoking areas) events halls, concerts, sports venues, covered bus stops, railway platforms, parking lots, swimming pools and zoos. Israel has also banned smoking at public events with more than 50 people. 

Most notably, both of these laws were passed two decades before the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was implemented, which was signed by Israel in 2003 and ratified in 2005. 

Israel’s 1983 Clean Air Act, which was amended in 2007, states that owners of public venues must prevent smoking taking place on their premises, and will be fined if they fail to do so. It is illegal to provide ashtrays inside enclosed public spaces, and owners must display “No smoking” signs to keep areas smoke-free. 

In 2011, “The Plan for the Reduction in Tobacco Use and Damage” law was approved by Israeli government, which proposed a number of significant smoking prevention provisions for the country. Among these were an extended list of smoke-free public places, and an overhaul on Israel’s marketing and advertising regulations. These additional smoke-free areas were approved in 2012, however the attempt to strengthen the law restricting advertising and marketing of tobacco products was withdrawn in 2014 due to conflictual interference from the tobacco industry. 

What are Israel’s Laws on Smoking today, and how have they improved?

In December 2018, the "Restriction of Advertising and Marketing of Tobacco Products Law" was changed to "Ban on Advertising and Restrictions on Marketing of Tobacco and Smoking Products”. Following this change, Israel passed historic tobacco control legislation in tobacco marketing and advertising restrictions. This new law introduced a variety of further revisions to Israel’s existing smoking policy. 

IQOS and other heated tobacco products, electronic e-cigarettes (with or without nicotine), roll-your-own cigarettes as well as smoking products derived from herbs are now all included under this new law. These recent additions to the Ban on Advertising and Restrictions on Marketing of Tobacco and Smoking Products law also fall under Israel’s law banning smoking in public places. 

While many studies have indicated that e-cigarettes, also referred to as vaping devices, present significantly less harmful effects to the user and others around them, they are also banned in public places in Israel. E-cigarettes can no longer be sold to minors, and there are now specific regulations with these devices in terms of nicotine content and child-proof caps with e-liquids. 

Furthermore, Israel has now banned all marketing of tobacco products on the internet and at points-of-sale. There is the exception of advertisements in the print press, however on condition of several factors. The marketing material must be aimed at adults and accompanied alongside tobacco industry funded, Ministry-of-Health written ads that are anti-tobacco. Any direct advertisements to those over the age of 21 via email or text messaging are currently allowed, providing that the recipient has given written and signed consent. 

Israel now prohibits images of flowers, fruits, and animals on all tobacco packaging. Plain packaging is now mandatory, with text warnings covering 65% of this for cigarettes, smoke-less, and heated tobacco products. For e-cigarettes, 30% of the packaging must contain text warnings. Package inserts which contain warnings from the Ministry of Health are also mandatory.  Moreover, cigarette and e-cigarette businesses are now required to disclose the content of their products to the Ministry of Health. 

Which smoking cessation tools are available in Israel?The people of Israel have several smoking cessation options available to them. Through the National Basket of Services, smokers can receive free behavioral counseling alongside subsidized prescription medications. Since 2010, both Varenicline and Bupropion SR are free of charge for those who attend free smoking cessation group behavioral counselling. Following revisions in 2018, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is now available for those who attend smoking cessation group behaviour counselling, but are unable to take subscription medications.

Author bio:

Jennifer Williams is a Staffordshire based copywriter with notable expertise in the travel, fitness and well-being sectors. While studying English and Journalism at Coventry University, she worked as a freelance copywriter for a variety of different industries and niches.