Survey finds rise in Israeli smoking since Oct. 7

Smoking is responsible for nearly 8,000 deaths annually in Israel.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

Cigarette smoking among Israelis has risen since October 7, according to a survey released on Tuesday by the Israel Cancer Association. The survey’s release comes ahead of International No Smoking Day on Friday.

Around 40% of smokers surveyed said they changed their smoking habits following the Hamas attacks, with 12% returning to smoking, 21% smoking more, and 7% stopping. One-third of the public knows someone who started or returned to cigarettes since October 7, with military service accounting for half of the increase.

“We are very concerned about the smoking phenomenon in Israel which shortens life expectancy, causes many diseases and death,” said Cancer Association CEO Moshe Bar Haim.

“With everything humanity knows about the addictive habit, we would expect that in 2024 the percentage of smokers in Israel would drop to single digits like in advanced and modern countries that have already opened up, but unfortunately the new survey data presents a grim picture and almost every hour another Israeli dies from the effects of smoking,” he said.

The survey found that approximately 21.5% of Israelis smoke cigarettes. The prevalence of smoking is notably higher among men (26.6%) and in Arab society (28%). Additionally, 19% of teenagers and young adults aged 16-24 smoke electronic cigarettes. The survey also found that nearly the entire population (94%) is exposed to smoking in public places.

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Among the smoking population, about two-thirds regret having started smoking, and about 72.7% would like to quit smoking. The two main obstacles to quitting cited by the smokers were losing the sense of fun and the difficulty of giving up a years-long habit.

According to the Cancer Society, smoking is responsible for nearly 8,000 deaths annually in Israel. Smoking contributes to various cancers, heart attacks, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, fertility issues in women, and impotence in men. Almost every hour, an Israeli dies due to diseases caused by active or passive smoking.

One consequence of pervasive smoking is that about half of Israelis avoid places of entertainment due to secondhand smoke. This avoidance is more pronounced among non-smokers (56%), who tend to steer clear of bars (43.1%), coffee shops (37.7%), home gatherings (35.7%), and restaurants (32.8%) due to the presence of smoke.