There is something that they won’t tell you on Birthright, internships or the gap year to Israel: There is a good chance you might start smoking. While American and Canadian teens have been barraged with educational campaigns that promote butting out, so they never start in the first place, Israel is a place where it is not only acceptable to smoke, it’s actually promoted in many ways. All your fine anti-smoking education will go up in smoke. Laws are not enforced, and it’s just socially *really* cool to smoke in Israel.
My step-son used e-cigarettes to quit smoking and they worked. But not everyone is so lucky. We are lucky that Israelis do not really travel to Sinai anymore. Because smoking is one of the only activities that you can do there besides laying in the sand and watching the clouds float by.
But this story is about laying the foundations to what you can expect so you can avoid starting up in the first place.
1. Smoking pot among the younger group seems to be more widespread than what I experienced in my early 20s in Canada, and you might fall into the trap in Israel even if you never inhaled in your life. In some circles, even among good boys who were in great army units, smoking pot is a way of life.
2. Smoking the old nargillah pipe becomes a tourist experience, and then some people continue for months or even years after the first puff, despite the fact that it can be much more dangerous to inhale “apple” tobacco than regular cigarettes. Don’t try it and then you won’t know what you are missing.
3. Buying cigarettes in singles or 3’s. This seems like a nice and easy way to smoke without forking out loads of cash for a whole pack. The fact that you can avoid the unpleasant “bumming” of cigarettes by buying them out of the package, can make your little “habit” that more likely to grab hold of you. Just don’t do it. Also you don’t know the quality of the cigarettes. Some of them could be smuggled in from Egypt where the tobacco is inferior.
4. Fancy cigarettes. Unable to buy them in Israel, a boyfriend of mine got me hooked on clove cigarettes from Indonesia. His brother used to bring them over from NYC, and unable to buy them in Israel because the country has no diplomatic relations to Indonesia, those Gudang Garam clove cigarettes were so much more exciting to smoke. Not to mention the high from the clove. Don’t buy into fancy cigarettes or cigars.
5. Going out. Everyone and their brother is smoking at a certain age in Israel, or so it seems. While smoking has been officially banned in public places you’ll be pressed to find the law enforced. It’s one of those if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em situations. Don’t want to smoke? Keep your hands busy with your cell phone pretending to speak with someone while your friends get together to light up. Or you could be that annoying tourist who tells the Israelis to stop smoking.