NGO demands immediate probe into Litzman’s behavior over smoking

The Movement for Quality Government has called on Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to open an immediate investigation of Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman’s behavior regarding smoking and tobacco as documented by the State Comptroller Report’s chapter on the ministry released on Tuesday.

Sixty-three pages of the comptroller’s nearly-300-page chapter on poor administration by the ministry were about smoking, including leniency by Litzman and other senior officials in dealing with tobacco companies and the resultant rise in smoking rates.

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The Movement for Quality Government said that the many complaints raised by the comptroller should not have surprised anyone when a year and a half ago, Channel 2’s Haim Rivlin exposed Litzman’s “problematic behavior” regarding the issue by secretly recording Litzman and associate director-general Prof. Itamar Grotto meeting with actors sent by Channel 2 claiming to be tobacco lobbyists. By not making the meetings with the lobbyists public, charged the comptroller, the minister and Grotto violated the Framework Tobacco Control Convention ratified by Israel in 2005.

The comptroller described a series of “shortcomings in professional decision-making in the ministry,” including by Litzman and senior administrators.

In January of last year, following the TV broadcast, the Movement for Quality Government called on Mandelblit to open an immediate investigation. When it received no substantive response, the NGO again called on the attorney-general and the state attorney demanding an investigation into the matter. Eight months later, it has still not received a response.

“It is not clear why they choose to ignore this repeated and problematic behavior that can harm public health,” the Movement for Quality Government said on Thursday, as “decisions made by the deputy minister raise questions about his professionalism and his commitment to safeguarding the public good.”