Dr. Hagai Levine thanked Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot for his new plan to reduce smoking in the IDF.
Dr. Levine is an epidemiologist, public health physician,and faculty member of Hebrew University's Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, and is an expert on smoking in the IDF.
Under the new plan, cigarettes will no longer be sold at IDF canteens on open bases. In a later stage, this will include training and other IDF bases as well, Smoking will also be prohibited in all IDF vehicles.
"A soldier who smokes needs more 'gimmels' (sick days) and more hospital stays, and he has a smaller chance of completing IDF practice hikes," Dr. Levine told Arutz Sheva. "A soldier who smokes fires less accurately. Cigarettes don't calm people down - that's a lie spread by the tobacco companies. Even today, most soldiers don't smoke and they do their jobs well."
"In the job market, everyone knows that a worker who smokes loses out on hours of work each day and requires more sick days. A pilot who gets on the plane and hasn't smoked his cigarette will suddenly get a craving for one. If he didn't smoke in the first place, he wouldn't have that craving, and he wouldn't need an additional dose of nicotine. If he hadn't started smoking, there wouldn't be a problem in the first place."
In Dr. Levine's opinion, tobacco companies exploit the army years to create addicts.
"The connection between the army and tobacco is an historical one," he explained. "The tobacco companies handed out free cigarettes to US soldiers, so that they would become addicts at a young age. Today, the US army is smoke-free, and the IDF will be as well - except for specific areas where smoking will be permitted. And there will be no cigarettes sold on army bases."
"This will also create an environment which will make it easier for the soldiers not to smoke. Most soldiers don't want to smoke, but someone who quit and then sees cigarettes in the IDF canteen will be swept up in the moment's excitement and may very well be tempted to smoke a cigarette."
Dr. Levine hopes Israel's rabbis will join the fight as well.
"Every year, 8,000 smokers die. It's important that the IDF lead Israeli society, but schools also need to educate children not to smoke, because this is Israel's number 1 plague.
"Unfortunately, this plague is creeping into societies which previously did not smoke, such as yeshiva students. In the past, many rabbis came out and forbade smoking, saying it was a violation of Jewish law and endangers lives. Today's rabbis should also rule against smoking."