Newly released government figures on tobacco use and smoking trends in Israel showed Sunday that smoking is on the decline overall. Still, 8,000 people died in 2014 from smoking-related illnesses — 700 of them from secondhand smoke.
Some 19.8 percent of Israelis aged 21 and over classified themselves as smokers in 2014, compared to 23.1% in 2013, according to a report by Health Ministry. The report was released as the World Health Organization marked No Tobacco Day Sunday.
More men (27.3%) smoke than women (12.6%), the report said. The rates are slightly lower than figures for the European Union, where the smoking rate averaged 28.5% for men and 17.7% for women.
Over half of male smokers reported consuming 10-20 cigarettes a day, while 40% of women said they smoked less than 10 cigarettes per day.
Israeli households spent over NIS 8.2 billion ($2.12 billion) on the purchase of tobacco-related products and cigarettes in 2014, far more than comparative amounts spent for basic food staples and necessities.
Consumer spending on all milk products in 2014 stood at NIS 7.5 billion ($1.94 billion). NIS 1 billion ($259 million) was spent on yellow cheese, baby diapers sales stood at NIS 600 million ($155 million) and breakfast cereal sales amounted to NIS 619 million ($160 million).
Smoking-related injuries also put an annual NIS 1.7 billion ($440 million) strain on the medical system, experts said — while indirect costs to the economy such as loss in productivity and work disability were estimated at some NIS 1.9 billion ($491 million).
Broken down by nationality, the smoking rate among Arabs is 26.3%, while in the Jewish sector it stands at 18.4%.
The report interviewed 2,774 people, both men and women, across a range of nationalities and ethnicities.
Households classified in the report as having a “low” socioeconomic status spent up to 25% of their monthly income on tobacco and cigarettes, in what medical professionals warned could damage nutritional standards and increase social disparities between low and high income families.
In addition, 22% of women surveyed said they continued to smoke during pregnancy and after birth, Ynet reported.
Meanwhile, Israeli customs and Border Police thwarted numerous attempts to smuggle tobacco into the country, with officials at one border crossing between Israel and Jordan netting up to 40 tons of tobacco and hookah worth NIS 24 million ($6.2 million).
On a more positive note, 26,818 applicants registered to quit smoking in 2014 at rehabilitation clinics across Israel — with over 40% remaining tobacco-free a year after attending a workshop.
World No Tobacco Day is marked each year on May 31 to highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use and to advocate effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption, according to the WHO website.