Israeli Health Care Organizations Drop Lobby Firms That Also Represent Tobacco Interests

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A branch of the Maccabi Health Fund in Ramat Aviv.
A branch of the Maccabi Health Fund in Ramat Aviv.Credit: Eyal Toueg

The practice of lobbyists representing both the tobacco industry and health organizations in Israel, once rampant, has now nearly entirely stopped.

The Maccabi Healthcare Services HMO ended its relationship with Boris Krasny’s lobbying firm Policy, over the latter’s representation of Phillip Morris in Israel. Maccabi intends to work instead with a lobbying company committed to not representing any tobacco companies, according to the Index of Lobbyists and their Customers, maintained by the Advanced Democracy Institute.

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Thus, the phenomenon has nearly entirely ended in Israel.

Over the past two years, thanks to efforts by Knesset members, doctors, advocacy organizations and TheMarker, the practice lost its legitimacy, as more and more organizations sided with the viewpoint that a company that advances the interests of the tobacco industry – which is responsible for the deaths of 8,000 Israelis a year – is not suited to also represent healthcare entities.

The first organization to drop its lobbying company was the Israeli lung cancer association, which dropped Gilad Government Relations and Lobbying because the latter represented the cigarette manufacturing division of the Israeli Chambers of Commerce. Gilad Lobbying later cut out its cigarette division after the Israel Medicine Association, another customer, demanded it do so. Gilad has other major medical customers, including the Meuhedet HMO, Magen David Adom, Ezer Metzion and the Patient Rights Association in Israel.

Several months ago, the lobbying firm Cohen Rimon stopped representing Globrands, which imports tobacco brands including Winston, Kent, Camel and Lucky Strike to Israel. The lobbyist had for years represented health companies including drugmaker AbbVie and the association for premature infants.

Meanwhile Knesset committee chairs, including Health Committee chair MK Eli Alalouf and Special Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse chair MK Tamar Zandberg, announced that they would not be permitting tobacco industry lobbyists into their sessions. The proposal was put on hold at the demand of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who said it should be replaced with a less restrictive ethical code, but it may arise again in the current Knesset session.

The head of the Advanced Democracy Institute, Shabi Gatenio, said he hoped the day was near when tobacco industry lobbyists wouldn’t be able to enter the Knesset at all.

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