Friday, May 05, 2006

Smoking Sux (and Kills)

A day before Yom Ha’atzmaut, I bumped into one of my patients on the street. She was about to light up a cigarette when I saw her, and when I crossed the street to say hello she hid it away.

This person was 2 weeks ago intubated and ventilated (had a tube down her throat to help her breathe) due to an exacerbation of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (sick lungs due to smoking cigarettes every day for the past 40 or so years). She managed to overcome this particular occasion of hospitalization. While I was treating her in the hospital, I also bumped into her in the lift once as she was returning from a ‘ciggi’ break, and after that she received no more treatment from me, because you can’t help someone who is not willing to help themselves.

Putting that aside, she decided, when I saw her on the street to ask me for money to buy food to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut. I replied that I would only give her, if she threw away her cigarettes, she did, and then I felt bad, so I gave her money, even though I am sure she probably went and bought more cigarettes with it, because I guess I am a sucker, and seeing her in the role of a patient/carer relationship I felt impelled to try and help her.

Coming from Australia which has strict laws against smoking in public places, no advertisements for smoking are allowed in the media and with TV adverts all the time explaining the disadvantages of smoking i.e. Nicotine is addictive, smoking causes lung cancer etc, I was majorly taken aback last year, when I was in a bar in Jerusalem, one night and 6 sexy girls dressed up entered the bar giving away cigarette lighters if you entered a competition sponsored by a major cigarette company.

Whenever my friends smoke, I make a fuss, because they are endangering my health as well and it is unfair. I don’t care if I am annoying, because after they have a heart attack, or stroke, or are dying of lung cancer, they are going to want me to treat them in hospital, and you know what, I don’t want to see me or any of my friends in that situation.

Some people say, Israel is a stressful environment and that’s why people smoke so much. I can’t accept that, A recent study which I read on Israeli attitudes towards smoking, reported that people do it to rebel, I can’t accept that either. I think it’s social, it’s a way to start conversation, you can go a smoke a cigarette with someone an ‘ice breaker’ people think they ‘look cool’, you can join friends to have a smoke, – to these people I say learn how to a part of the crowd some other way, you don’t need to smoke – it is the definition of UNCOOL. Then there are the people who may have started smoking for any of the above reasons and are now addicted – which is a real shame, because now it has taken control of them.

I was majorly impressed when the bar that I was at last week made some of my friends go outside to smoke, this was the first time in the past year that I have been here that has occurred.
It is not a coincidence that when I treat someone for a respiratory problem, the first question that I was trained to ask is ‘Are you a smoker?’ There is a direct correlation between smoking and respiratory disease, so if you don’t want a tube down your throat later on in life as you try and cling onto a breathe of air, then don’t smoke. If you do choose to smoke then please have some consideration for the people around you who don’t because passive smoking kills too.


As a person who sees the detrimental effects of smoking everyday, it is an understatement to say that I am against smoking. The prevalence of smoking in Israel is in short disturbing and a major health issue on which a number of articles have been written

- About 27% of Israelis over the age of 18 smoke.
- The Average age an Israeli starts to smoke is 13.5
- 25% of Israeli’s started to smoke during Army service
- 16% a population surveyed who all work for the Ministry of Health did not know that Nicotine is an addictive substance
- 10 000 Israeli’s die every year from diseases due to smoking
(Knesset Research Article ‘ The Addiction to Cigarette Smoking’, 2003)

For more statistics check out World Health Organisation Tobacco Control Database

‘A new survey of the Israel Cancer Association indicates that 75% of the Israeli public supports the prohibition against smoking in restaurants and cafes’
(Israeli Cancer Association,, 2006)

It is interesting to note that laws have existed to ban smoking in public places in Israel since 1983!‘In 1983 the ICA enacted a law banning smoking in public places.
In 1996, in the wake of the appeal to the Supreme Court of Justice submitted by El Al flight attendants and the ICA, a sweeping ban on smoking was adopted on all flights in Israel and from Israel.
In 2002, we expanded the law banning smoking public places to malls and shopping centers, and so on’
(ICA ,, 2004)

BMJ 2001;322:695 ( 24 March ), Israel bans smoking from almost all public places, Judy Siegel-Itzkovich Jerusalem
‘The health ministry said that the police and local authorities are responsible for catching violators, but that the public, who can complain to owners of premises about violations, will be the main enforcers.’

Article:‘Attitudes towards anti-smoking legislation in Israel’

Article:‘Israel can kick the smoking habit’


Blogger ifyouwillit said...

I know many that chose to quit before making aliya as they would find it too diffcult to do so once they were here. The smoking culture doesn nothing but harm, but it's one of those areas that Israel lags behind the rest of the world rather than being a trend setter.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Wisey said...

In Australia they have just implemented displaying photographic evidence on cigarette packets of mouth cancer.

Looks real pretty.

The TV ads are also pretty gross.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Aliza said...

Brava, my friend. I can't stand the nasty habit. looking forward to Ibsen!!!

2:28 PM  

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