Will Israel ban tobacco advertisements?

In preliminary reading, Knesset approves bill to ban tobacco and cigarette advertisements.

Chana Roberts ,

Yehuda Glick
Yehuda Glick
Miriam Alster/Flash90

Likud MK Yehuda Glick recently announced that he will not vote with the coalition until significant steps to reduce the health risks posed by smoking are advanced.

As a result, the Knesset agreed to approve a bill banning the advertisement of cigarettes and other addictive tobacco products. On Tuesday, the Knesset gave the bill preliminary approval, paving the way for the legislative votes.

The bill will place a general ban on advertising tobacco products, aiming to limit minors' exposure to advertisement of these products, which cause death, illness, and disabilities. The ban is extremely important in protecting children and youths from the influence of advertisements which present smoking in a positive and attractive light.

The existing law, passed in 1983, places certain limitations on the advertisement of tobacco. However, there have been several changes in the tobacco industry since then. In 2003, Israel signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and in August 2005 approved the conventions. Section 13(1) of the Convention states that the signatories recognize a general ban on advertising, promoting, and sponsoring tobacco products. Section 13(2) states that signatories must add into their constitutions or constitutional laws a general ban on the advertisement, promotion, and sponsoring of these products. Many countries have already implemented this obligation, including Britain, France, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Australia, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Holland, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. In all of these countries, advertising in newspapers, on billboards, and sponsoring tobacco and cigarettes is forbidden. In some of these countries, additional restrictions apply as well.

The bill also states that despite the fact that banning advertisement of tobacco products harms tobacco companies' freedom of business and expression, when taking into account the heavy cost of these products to public health, and the consequences of this damage, the limitations on advertising and marketing tobacco products are appropriate. In order to avoid harming tobacco companies' business, advertising will be limited to channels focused on the smoking population who wishes to see them, instead of completely banned.

This bill is an integral part of the government's 2011 plan to limit the damages caused by smoking, and part of a plan which places on the Health Minister responsibility for limiting the advertisement of cigarettes and tobacco products.

"Tobacco products" are defined as all types of smoking materials, including tobacco and other plant-based materials, as well as products which are used to smoke them. In addition, the prohibitions on tobacco today include other smoking devices which do not include tobacco, as well as products which are used for smoking tobacco and other materials.

MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) said, "This law is an issue of nothing less than life and death. As a formerly heavy smoker, I feel a real obligation to change this law and save those who think they understand how significant smoking is. The fight to cancel smoking advertisements on the internet and social media is aimed towards the younger generation, which receives most of its information via these platforms."

"Smoking is the number one cause of death in Israel, with thousands of people dying as a result of it each year," Glick said. "This is the first step, and I hope that many more will follow until the plague of smoking has been eliminated. The tobacco companies will lose money, but the public will gain."

In June 2017, Israel's Health Ministry published a report which showed that 22.5% of Israelis over age 21 smoke, and 2.6% of Israeli boys smoke cigarettes in middle school. The total number of smokers is 1.2 million. However, despite the statistics, then-Health Minister Yakov Litzman (UTJ) decided in July to bury the report indefinitely, claiming that there were "professional doubts" regarding its accuracy.

Also in July, Glick slammed Litzman's decision to require cigarette advertisers to add an advert of the same size against cigarette smoking whenever they advertise their products. Noting that smoking is dangerous, Glick pointed out that Litzman's law would encourage the media to advertise cigarettes, since they would receive double the income for every advertisement.

He encouraged banning tobacco and cigarette advertisements to be banned, and asked why the haredi media are the largest advertisers of cigarettes despite the dangers involved.