19:50 GMT27 July 2021
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    Israel’s Health Ministry has moved to shut down all smoking rooms in public buildings, except for certain medical and mental health facilities.

    To address the public health effects caused by smoking, the Parliament’s Drug Abuse Prevention and Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committees are also supporting legislation that will allow lawsuits totalling NIS 40 billion against tobacco companies operating in the country. 

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    Ya’acov Litzman, Israel’s health minister, told a Wednesday committee session that the ministry intends to get tough on anti-smoking legislation, possibly in response to past criticism of taking it easy on tobacco companies.

    The new legislation will include banning smoking in parts of hospitals, sports facilities, retirement homes, kindergartens, parking lots, playgrounds, zoos, restaurants and other public places, according to the Jerusalem Post.

    However, smoking will be allowed in closed off areas at psychiatric hospitals, general hospitals and psychiatric wards.

    An annual report released in May showed a 13-percent increase in smoking rates in Israel in one year. 

    "There is an inexplicable and unreasonable increase in smoking in 2016 data compared to 2015," Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov said. "We prefer to carry out analytical completions of the data. Everything will be done with transparency."

    Despite the move, former Health Minister and Knesset member Yael German blasted Health Minister Litzman, saying, "You have not done anything about smoking for two years. You have resisted all the anti-smoking bills I have raised. Why do you allow the sale of iQOS [a heat-not-burn tobacco product]? You should do as in the US, where the Food and Drug Administration banned the marketing of the product at least until it proves to be harmless."

    Roughly 8,000 Israelis die each year from smoking-related causes, though the country has one of the world’s highest life expectancy, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.


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