Smoking
Smoking Photo by AP
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet approved Sunday a series of amendments and new regulations aimed at stepping up efforts to curb smoking in the country, in honor of the upcoming international no-smoking day.

The government rejected, however, a proposal to increase taxes on cigarettes by up to 10 percent.

The Health Ministry is expected to bring the approved legislation changes to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation next month.

According to a report issued Sunday by Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, the number of smokers in Israel in 2010 reached 23.3 percent of adults - 32 percent of them men and 15.1 percent women. The figures in the report indicate no major shift in smoking trends since the year before.

Approximately 28 percent of Jewish men and 16.1 percent of Jewish women in Israel are smokers, according to the report. The figure among Arab men was much higher, 52.2 percent, while only 9.7 percent of Arab women were listed as smokers.

The survey also showed that some 60.8 percent of all Israeli smokers had been advised by their physician to quit.

The new regulations approved by the cabinet on Sunday include a ban on smoking at train and bus station platforms, as well as limitingsmoking areas in restaurants to 15 square meters.

The cabinet also approved a program to see new limitations placed on tobacco advertisements, a ban on automated cigarette machines and adding graphic warning pictures to cigarette packs.

In addition, the cabinet plans to launch a pilot program to declare a number of schools in Israel "smoke free".

Health Ministry Director-General Dr. Ronny Gamzo said further steps must still be taken to curb the number of smokers in the country.

"Over the past three years, the number of smokers in Israel has remained stagnant and is even rising among Arab men," said Gamzo, adding that such figures stood in stark comparison to the decline in smokers around the world, including "countries like Greece and Turkey."