The effect of cigarette smoking on Israelis' health is costing the economy some NIS 8 billion (roughly $2 billion) a year, according to a Health Ministry estimate.
The findings are part of the ministry's 2011 report on the damages of smoking. The estimate is based on data relating to the cost of medical treatment, hospitalizations, allowances and loss of tax revenue.
The report also takes into account loss of income tax revenue involving heavy smokers who can no longer work, a drop in work output as a result of cigarette breaks and damage caused fires started by cigarette butts thrown to undesignated places.
According to the report, 64 children under the age of six were hospitalized after swallowing cigarette butts in 2011.
Health Ministry director Prof. Ronny Gamzo said at a meeting of the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee that they considering a bill requiring tobacco firms to finance smoking damage costs. "I am an enemy of all tobacco companies and anyone who profits from smoking and I won't compromise on this issue," he said.
The committee was told that the state's revenues from tax on cigarettes amount to NIS 5 billion a year and that the Treasury is considering raising the tax.
MK Orly Levi-Abekasis (Yisrael Beiteinu) said that the situation described by the Health Ministry does not reflect well on the success of the smoking prevention law. Prof. Gamzo said that the bill does not offer sanctions on local authorities that fail to enforce the law.