There are 1 million smokers in Israel 19.7 percent of people 21 or older spending more than 8 billion shekels ($2.1 billion) a year on cigarettes, the Health Ministry says.
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The figures, released Tuesday to mark World No Tobacco Day, show that 26 percent of Israeli men smoke and 13.6 percent of women.
The rate of men smokers is slightly higher than the average in the European Union (24.2 percent), but the women’s rate is higher in the EU (15.5 percent).
Over the decades, the figures show a sharp decline in the percentage of Israeli smokers. In the past 35 years the rate has tumbled among Jewish men by 51 percent and among Jewish women by 52 percent.
Figures for the Arab community, which have only been available since 1996, show a decline of 6 percent for men and 44 percent for women.
The numbers also show a decline in teenage cigarette smokers. About 8 percent of high school students reported smoking at least one cigarette a week, compared with 15 percent in 2002.
Cigarette and water-pipe smoking is higher among Arab teens, and more boys report smoking than girls.
Among 11th and 12th graders, about 39 percent of boys and girls in the Jewish community said they had tried a water pipe, and 42 percent of boys and girls in the Arab community said they had done so.
About 20 percent of 10th graders said they had tried smoking a cigarette at least once – a slightly higher number than in their age group in Europe, about 17 percent.
The 8.1-billion-shekel figure compared with the 7.6 billion shekels spent on milk products last year.
Also, last year saw a 4 percent decline in participation in workshops offered by Israel’s health maintenance organizations to stop smoking. Last year 25,721 of the 1 million smokers took part in workshops, or only about 2.5 percent of smokers, even though all four HMOs offer the workshops designed to cater to all segments of the population.