Nearly 40 percent of Israelis are smokers by the time they finish their compulsory army service, according to a new study.
That is twice as high as the overall national rate and dramatically higher than among American soldiers, according to the study published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Haifa conducted the study in cooperation with the Israel Defense Forces’ Medical Corps. Data came from nearly 30,000 soldiers between 1987 and 2011.
About 37 percent of Israeli soldiers are smokers when they are discharged, compared to 26 percent of new recruits, the study found–a 42 percent increase over the course of service. The researchers behind the study called for the creation of an anti-smoking body in the Israeli army to address the problem.
“The use of tobacco harms IDF soldiers and security in general,” the lead author, Dr. Leah Rosen of Tel Aviv University, said in a statement. “The government and the Ministry of Health need to cooperate with the IDF in order to reduce the number of soldiers who start smoking, to encourage soldiers to quit smoking, and to protect non-smokers from exposure to cigarette smoke.
“We should take an example from the United States, which conducted extensive changes to the smoking policy in its military to protect its soldiers and to improve the readiness and performance of its combat units.”
Army service is mandatory for most Israeli Jews and a central part of the national identity. Smoking cigarettes to cope with the boredom and stress is a well-known part of the experience. (JTA)