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Cell phone Photo by Reuters

A bill requiring all cellphones sold in Israel to bear a health-hazard warning label  passed its first of three readings into law on Wednesday.

The bill, sponsored by MK Dov Khenin of Hadash and Yulia Shamalov Berkovich of Kadima, won blanket approval in parliament. It also requires all advertisements of mobile phones to bear the warning.

Although the jury is out on the science, some suspect that heavy cellphone use may cause cancers, particularly in children. Youngsters can be more vulnerable to carcinogens because of their faster rate of cellular division.

The labels will read "Warning - the Health Ministry cautions that heavy use and carrying the device next to the body may increase the risk of cancer, especially among children."

Nor is that all: Similarly to cigarettes, all advertising targeting minors would be banned under the law, and breaking the law would be a criminal offense.

"The bill that passed today is a breakthrough in expanding public awareness of the possible risks in using cellular phones," Khenin said yesterday after the vote. Given the "worrying results" of a number of Israeli and international studies, he said, it is incumbent on the government to bring the possible risks to the public's awareness. People need to be more careful in their use of cellphones, he said, and especially, they must protect children.

The Forum of Cellular Companies responded that they adhere to all the safety directives handed down by the Health Ministry and Environmental Protection Ministry. "Beyond that, we believe that new initiatives and recommendations in the areas of public health and safety should be handed down by the professionals in these areas, based on the scientific knowhow in Israel and the world."