The number of cigarettes smoked by residents of Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead rose to an average of over a pack a day, the Health Ministry's 2008 report on smoking revealed.
The report was unveiled on Sunday during a press conference held to mark the annual international No-Smoking Day.
The report, compiled by the Health Ministry's national center for disease control, surveyed 425 smokers between the ages of 19 and 85 in Jewish cities located up to 40 km from the Gaza Strip.
Prior to Operation Cast Lead, the men surveyed stated that they had smoked an average of 17 cigarettes a day, while the women claimed to have smoked an average of 13 cigarettes. A pack contains 20 cigarettes.
Only about 14 percent of the smokers questioned reported smoking more than one pack of cigarettes a day before Israel's Gaza incursion.
However, during the fighting's final two-week period the average amount of cigarettes smoked by men rose to 21, a little over one pack a day, while the women's average rose to 17 cigarettes smoked daily.
All in all, approximately 25 percent of smokers questioned said they smoked over a pack of cigarettes per day during the final 14 days of Operation Cast Lead.
Regarding the general public for 2007-2008 the study showed 24.2 percent of the population to be smokers. According to the study, 32.3 percent of all Israeli men smoke cigarettes, compared to 16 percent of the women.
The rates differ between the Jewish and Arab populations, with 23.2 percent of Jews and 29.7 percent of Arabs describing themselves as smokers. Also, in both sectors men smoke more than women, with the gap significantly larger in the Arab population: 28.1 percent of Jewish men and 18.7 of Jewish women, compared to 54.1 percent of Arab men and only 4.8 percent of Arab women.
The Health Ministry's report also found that between 1996 and 2008 smoking rates among Jewish men dropped almost 12 percent, compared to a 25 percent drop among Jewish women.
Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said during the press conference that he intended to examine the option of making cigarette companies allocate a portion of their advertising budgets to anti-smoking messages. However, Litzman said that it was only a preliminary idea.
The deputy minister also said he was looking into prohibiting cigarette companies from endorsing youth-oriented gatherings.
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