Leading rabbis and the Jerusalem Municipality have joined forces in a battle against the widespread habit of smoking in the haredi public, in light of studies indicating that the sector has the highest rate of smokers in Israeli society.
The Health Ministry and local haredi authorities will also take part in the effort.
In a campaign that will be launched Thursday, rabbis will issue halachic rulings banning smoking. The rulings will be posted on bulletin boards and buses, and published in the community's pamphlets.
The decision to launch the campaign ahead of Purim was based on the fact that during the holiday it is usually considered legitimate for children to smoke cigarettes.
'Cigarette- the number one killer' - Anti-smoking campaign launched
"Studies have shown that most haredi smokers smoked their first cigarette during Purim, as part of a defective practice which permits teenagers, and even children, to smoke on the holiday," Jerusalem Municipal Council Member Shlomo Rosenstein, explained.
"The campaign was made possible in view of the realization among all the bodies entrusted with this issue, that the haredi sector needs a campaign that speaks its language and addresses its codes," added Rosenstein, who heads the project.
Highest smoker rate
In addition to the distribution of relevant halachic rulings, the municipality also plans to institute educational programs on smoking prevention in schools and yeshivot, and open a special training program for educators.
Furthermore, rabbis and yeshiva heads will soon publish a petition slamming the practice of "the first cigarette" on Purim.
Yair Amikam, a spokesman for the Health Ministry, said that medical studies indicate that smoking is more prevalent in the haredi sector than in any other sector in Israel, with the rate of smokers standing at 18.5%.
"In the haredi population it is very common to smoke in public places such as yeshivot, reception halls and so on," Amikam added.