Tobacco; The 11th Plague

May 29, 2019

4 min read

The Ten Plagues affected only the ancient Egyptians, but an 11th Plague – tobacco smoking – today kills one person in the world every four seconds. Every day, 22 Israelis – or some 8,000 per year – die from smoking-related diseases.

The annual World No-Smoking Day will be held on May 31. Although though Israel’s Health Ministry has not issued a statement about it, the Israel Cancer Association (ICA) – a non-profit organization with 70 branches and 3,500 volunteers that is funded solely by donations and fights to prevent and help promote the treatment of cancer – has remembered. It has released studies and made statements to raise awareness of the terrible danger and waste of life caused by tobacco.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 165,000 children die before the age of five from lower respiratory tract infections due to exposure to secondhand smoke. Those who survive continue to suffer from the health consequences of exposure in childhood and are at increased risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as adults. Today, smoking kills more than eight million people a year worldwide, and a million nonsmokers who die from passive smoking. This means that smoking kills one person in the world every four seconds.

The WHO aims at cutting the incidence of smoking by 30% within six years. According to data from the coalition of cancer organizations in the world, Prevent20, 20% of all cancer deaths worldwide are related to smoking and is the cause of more than two-thirds of all lung cancer deaths.

The global coalition was established to press governments to increase the tax rate on smoking products as a most effective prevention strategy. Its members, including the ICA, strive to reduce the incidence of smoking to prevent millions of annual cancer-related deaths that are caused by smoking.

ICA director-general Miri Ziv said: “It is important to raise a generation of young citizens who are free of all forms of smoking and addiction to tobacco and nicotine. In the past year, the State of Israel has promoted equalization of taxes on rolling tobacco with cigarettes, expanded the prohibitions of smoking in public places law and upgraded the restricting and marketing law of addictive and dangerous products.” Yet, enforcement of the laws by the local authorities and the government remains inadequate.

(Image courtesy WHO)

Dr. Dudi Biton, a senior ICA doctor and information coordinator, explained: “We are concerned about new gadgets and marketing campaigns designed to encourage smoking rather than eradicate it. And are also concerned about attributing reduction of damage to new products whose extent of damage has not yet been fully exposed through long-term studies. The diversion of public discourse by using terms such as evaporation, sometimes even by doctors, is an affront to scientific truth. Keep in mind that the source of nicotine in electronic cigarettes is also tobacco, just like regular cigarettes, so this is the same addictive substance with tremendous potential for health damage – but now it appears in concentrations far greater than those we have known before.”

Recent studies, continued Biton, have found that electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) contain toxic and carcinogenic substances that are associated with the development of cancerous tumors, myocardial infarction, stroke and an increased risk of heart disease.”

“We are committed to reducing the physical, emotional and economic burden of cancer caused by smoking,” said Dana Frost of the ICA’s Health Promotion Program, adding: “Cancer kills smokers, and treatment costs huge amounts of money.” The ICA has produced various media messages on the Internet and elsewhere to raise awareness.

Teens and young adults who use e-cigs are a particularly vulnerable segment of the population, especially because of the addictive effects of nicotine on the brain that is not fully developed until age 25. Huge, powerful companies use tactics designed to entice young users to glorify electronic cigarettes in an attempt to make them attractive to the young, and in many cases, the proportion of ordinary cigarette smokers among young people who have started smoking electronic cigarettes and vaping and evaporation devices is significantly higher

A new ICA survey reveals an interesting picture of Israeli public opinion on smoking. The survey of participation of 506 women and men aged 18 and over in a representative national sample of the population found that equalizing the price of rolling tobacco with that of regular cigarettes, which occurred only two months ago, already affects smokers. More than 40% of the total smoking population of all ages are already considering quitting smoking as a result of the change, which was forced on the Treasury by the High Court of Justice. Of those aged 25 to 34, no less than half of them are considering quitting, and among smokers aged 18-24, about 46% are thinking of kicking the habit.

Although Deputy Health Minister (United Torah Judaism MK) Ya’acov Litzman has long opposed requiring the placing of graphic images of dirty teeth and lungs and other images on cigarette packets on the grounds that they are “not esthetic,” the survey found that over 84% of the Israeli public favor graphic warnings with photographs.

According to the survey, 84.4% of the public supports graphic warnings with photographs on cigarette packets.

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