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Hebrew U. finds tobacco companies using loopholes to market to teens

Sep 07, 2020

Earlier in the year, new legislation concerning the marketing of tobacco products went into effect, which focuses on a prohibition of the display of tobacco products.

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI) have found that tobacco companies are using legal loopholes to market their products to underage users in order to "create a new generation of people who are addicted to cigarettes."

The university is set to discuss its findings with the Knesset’s Labor, Welfare and Health Committee on Tuesday as part of the Ministry of Health Report on Smoking in Israel. The researchers published their report, titled "Tobacco Legislation Reform and Industry Response in Israel" in the Tobacco Control journal.

“Tobacco companies will use any means possible to recruit new smokers. The recently-released Ministry of Health report on Smoking in Israel proves the incompetence of the government in dealing with tobacco use, as smoking rates have not budged in the last ten years,” said leading researcher and HU epidemiologist Dr. Yael Bar-Zeev.

Earlier in the year, new legislation concerning the marketing of tobacco products went into effect, which focuses on a prohibition of the display of tobacco products as well as using display advertisements to market tobacco products.

Tobacco products are also sold in standardized black packaging with a large health warning written in both Hebrew and Arabic, and according to the university the amendments that were enacted to decrease underage exposure to the products are not enough to keep the tobacco companies from reaching their target audience.

When the legislation was passed, store owners were forced to install the display barriers at their counters - which many of the tobacco companies provided, eye-catching and prominent cabinets attached with a large sign that says "We sell tobacco products." The university notes that this still exposes children and teenagers to the "presence of tobacco products at points-of-sale."

Additionally, there was an exception when it came to print media, stating that tobacco companies can still market their products in the newspapers - to which the companies took fair advantage of.

"Smoking rates have remained steady at 20% for the last ten years. We call on the Minister of Health MK Yuli Edelstein and the Ministry of Health Director-General Prof. Hezi Levi to act decisively against the marketing of tobacco products and to fix the failings of the current legislation, including specifying an effective enforcement plan, canceling the exemption of print media from the advertisement ban, and adding graphic health warnings to all tobacco products," Bar-Zeev concluded.

Bar-Zeev has led and been a part of numerous research studies regarding smoking in Israel, including its connection to the novel coronavirus as well as surveys documenting smoker habits.

Source: JERUSALEMPOST