Graphic warnings of cigarette damage to appear on Israel packaging

Science and Health

When Agudat Yisrael MK Yaakov Litzman was health minister several years ago, he asked why he refused to require the printing of graphic images of black lungs, yellow teeth, scar tissue on a man’s chest after surgery for lung cancer, and the like on cigarette packets, and he said: “It will scare children and youths.”

But that is exactly why 130 countries around the world require such images on tobacco products – to deter young Israelis and adults from starting to smoke. 

Litzman suggested an alternative–to put pictures of Jerusalem on cigarette packets instead. 

Now, over a decade after many countries have required tobacco companies to print such images, the Knesset Economics Committee is due to pass such legislation this week after such a bill has been approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. 

Time to make a change in legislation 

A survey conducted by the Israel Cancer Association (ICA) has revealed that 74% of smokers of all ages stated that the images would indeed deter them and that 84.4% of the public is in favor of graphic warnings with photographs on boxes. 

Janine Schulzki, tobacconist and owner of a kiosk, sorts cigarette boxes with an affixed, self-made cigarette labels displaying graphic images in her shop in Berlin February (credit: REUTERS/FABRIZIO BENSCH)

The survey was conducted by Ipsos Market Research with the participation of 506 women and men aged 18 and over in a nationally representative sample of the population. 


According to the World Health Organization, about 130 countries in the world already require warnings on tobacco products. Israel requires only verbal warnings of dangers to be printed on tobacco products. 

The new proposal for Israel’s cigarette packaging

Committee chairman and Likud MK David Bitan will discuss on Tuesday the bill proposed by Osher Shekalim, Ofir Katz, and Boaz Bismuth and joined by MK Nissim Vaturi, which aims to include images of the harms of smoking on cigarette packets and boxes sold in Israel. 

The proposal that will be presented to the committee in preparation for the first reading has already been submitted in accordance with Article 11 of the International Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) that the State of Israel signed in 2003 and that it ratified in 2005 but hasn’t yet carried out.

The convention deals, among other things, with the packaging and labeling of tobacco products, including the incorporation of images with warnings. 

Among the enlightened and FTCT-abiding countries are Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Denmark, and Bulgaria. 

The US Congress passed such a law nearly 13 years ago, but tobacco companies sent their armies of lawyers and lobbyists to campaign against it, arguing that it “violated Freedom of Speech,” so it was never implemented in the 50 states. 

These warnings were found to be particularly effective in influencing the minds of consumers, deterring them from buying the product, and influencing their desire to quit smoking. 

The ICA announced in preparation for the first reading in the committee that “we welcome the discussion of the bill that is essential to the continuation of the fight against smoking in Israel and call on the members of the Economic Committee to pass it urgently. This is a move that may neutralize the attraction to smoking and reduce the number of smokers. A picture can convey a message Stronger and more poignant than written text, as they say: ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ or from other health consequences, to shock and discourage people from smoking or to encourage them to stop smoking.”

The ICA continued that “we know that the emotional reactions create a lasting effect, and in the short and long term, the move will bring a real benefit. A survey we conducted previously at the Cancer Society showed that 84.4% of the public is in favor of graphic warnings with photographs on the boxes and packets. We emphasize that video warnings are part of a comprehensive approach to the fight against the smoking epidemic, which includes information, vigorous and effective enforcement, raising taxes on smoking products and restrictions on advertising. Only the combination of all efforts will be able to prevent the initiation of smoking among teenagers and promote quitting among veteran smokers.” 

The ICA urges everyone who wants to quit smoking to use its guides on kicking the habit at to attend free smoking-cessation classes at their public health fund. The Health Ministry also offers a smoking-cessation hotline at *6880. 

Call the Ministry of Health’s national smoking cessation hotline at *6800