Photo Credit: Abbi Berkovitz/Flash90
Restaurant employees take a cigarette break at the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem, January 2, 2018.

The International Non-Smoking Day is celebrated all over the world and in Israel on May 31, to raise awareness of the harms of smoking, encourage ending smoking, and protect youth from the tobacco industry.

Every year, about 8,000 women and men in Israel die as a result of smoking tobacco products. The Health Ministry is leading the implementation of the national plan to reduce smoking and its harms, and in recent years there has been great progress in this field in Israel, both in preventing the onset of smoking and in encouraging ending smoking.

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In February 2020, the Health Ministry’s call center for ending smoking began its ongoing activities and acted throughout the corona crisis to provide applicants with counseling to help end smoking.

SMOKING DATA DURING CORONA

From May to September 2020, the National Center for Disease Control surveyed the adult population to examine the changes in smoking habits following the corona plague. The survey found that there was no change in the percentage of smokers: 20% reported that they smoked, and only 0.5% reported that they had stopped smoking since the outbreak of the corona.

Among Israeli smokers, 26.7% reported that they smoked more since the outbreak of the plague; on average, an increase of 13 cigarettes per day was reported.

Also, 56.9% of respondents who smoked reported that they never smoked in the presence of household members, with no difference in the results between Jews and Arabs.

SMOKING AMONG TEENAGERS

Data from the HBSC 2018-2019 survey show that about 15% of students report experiencing cigarette smoking compared to about 25% reporting experiencing hookah smoking. It was found that boys reported significantly higher rates than girls on both cigarette and hookah smoking, in all age groups and in both sectors – Jewish and the Arab.

There is also a significant downward trend between 1998 and 2019, and cigarette and hookah smoking are more common among the Arab sector compared to the Jewish sector.

A survey on e-cigarette smoking among teenagers conducted by the Health Ministry in 2019 found that more than a quarter of teens used an e-cigarette. For one-sixth of them, an e-cigarette was the first smoking experience, sometimes as early as age 12, with the perception that an e-cigarette is “less harmful” as the main motive for use.

The survey also found that one-fifth of teens smoke, and boys smoke significantly more than girls.

Among smokers, about half smoke tobacco cigarettes from packs, and a similar rate reported using e-cigarettes.

SMOKING IN THE ADULT POPULATION – NATIONAL HEALTH SURVEY

The full survey data from the “National Health Survey in Israel-4 (INHIS-4),” conducted from December 2018 to March 2020, show that the smoking rate in the entire adult population in Israel (age 21 and over) in 2020 was 20.1%, compared to 20% in 2019.

The smoking rate among men is higher than the rate among women: 25.6% and 14.8%, respectively.

The rate of smoking among Arabs is higher than among Jews: 24.4% and 19.1%, respectively.

Smoking rates are lower in people with higher education (17.4%) compared to those with middle and low education (30.1% and 31.6%, respectively).

The smoking rate among men in Israel (25.6%) is higher than the overall average in OECD countries (22.5%).

The smoking rate among women in Israel (14.8%) is slightly higher than the overall average in OECD countries (13.9%).

1.6% of respondents reported using an e-cigarette and/or IQOS, 2.9% among men, and 0.4% among women.

The rate of use among Arabs was higher than the rate among Jews (2.8% and 1.2%, respectively).

SMOKING REHAB

The Health Ministry hotline provides free end-smoking assistance without the need for a doctor’s referral.

In 2020, ending smoking assistance provided in Israel was expanded. In the HMOs, in addition to the group smoking cessation workshops, one can get personal advice from a rehab counselor or family doctor. One can also get personal advice for quitting smoking by phone, through the HMOs’ end-smoking centers, or the Health Ministry’s end-smoking call center.

In 2020, in parallel with tackling the corona plague, 26,015 smokers turned to end-smoking assistance, a decrease of about 10% compared to 2019. The number of applicants for end-smoking assistance per year is still very low and stands at about 2.5% of all smokers in Israel.

In the past year, about 2,000 smokers used the Health Ministry’s rehab workshop through the Ministry’s call center. Every day there are about 100 rehab calls as part of the workshops.

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