JIN-422 -- Smoke on the Horizon?

J@pan Inc magazine presents:
The 'JIN' Japan Inc Newsletter
A weekly opinion piece on social, economic and political trends
in Japan.
Issue No. 421 Wednesday July 11, 2007 TOKYO

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SMOKING

In the early seventeenth century the Tokugawa Shogun banned
tobacco cultivation and imposed strict penalties for violators.
Such policies eventually turned to ash: by 1725 the Shogunate
unrestricted the industry in order to bail them out of financial
dire straits. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare reported
that in 2005 Japan had roughly 30.2 million smokers—around 25%
of the population. Indeed, Japan has become one of the smokiest
nations in the developed world. In 1999 the Health and Welfare
announced its ambition to cut the number of smokers by 50% by
2010—they have so far managed a reduction of roughly 7%. A look
at the social, commercial and legal landscape of Japan reveals
why this target was unrealistic.

Most obviously there is the fact of Japan Tobacco—the third
largest tobacco company in the world that most recently acquired
Britain's Gallagher Group for $15billion, the largest ever
international acquisition ever made by a Japanese company.
From 1904 until 1985 the Ministry of Finance had a monopoly on
domestic tobacco companies and still remains the largest
shareholder in Japan Tobacco. In the past 10 years Japan Tobacco
has come under the same pressures that other tobacco companies
have faced in the US and Europe. Some civil movements have grown
more vociferous and powerful and, despite the best efforts
of Japan Tobacco and its government allies, more and more
restrictions have come in. However, the pace of regulation has
been slower and implementation has often been half-hearted, at
least in part due to the government tie-in with profits from
cigarette sales whether it be from tax revenue or dividends from
their financial stakes in the industry.

Japan joined the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
in 2004. This obliged the government to free public health policy
of influence from the tobacco industry as well restricting its
ability to have any say on attempts to diversify away from
tobacco production in agriculture at a global level. However,
the wording of the convention failed to tie Japan to any real
financial or legal commitments—regulations concerning health
warning labels is much weaker here than in other countries.
Additionally, although the legal age for buying cigarettes in
Japan is 20, the ubiquity of cigarette vending machines means
that there is little to prevent even very young children from
getting their hands on tobacco. To be fair, we approached Japan
Tobacco on this issue and they told us that they are very much
involved in developing an adult identification system that could
be fitted to vending machines in accordance with their firm
belief that 'minors should not smoke.' On the other hand, a
cynic might point to the elementary school education programs
it runs on salt (http://www.jti.co.jp/Culture/museum/) and
question the motives of their involvement.

According to various media reports, Japan Tobacco apparently
tried to block moves by the government to restrict smoking in
public places by asking its employees to oppose such action in
an Internet opinion poll (see this article). In a sense the media should not
really be surprised by this and Japan Tobacco told us quite
openly that 'While JT believe appropriate and proportionate
regulation on smoking is necessary, the company has made great
efforts toward promoting a society in which smokers and
non-smokers can coexist in harmony'—such as helping create
designated smoking areas. It is easy to be cynical about such
moves (the company also advertise 'tidy smoking': see here)
but really the debate is a social and legal one—
corporations do what they can to survive and in a democracy such
as Japan, citizens are ultimately accountable for the social and
legal context.

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And this context is changing. In an article for the American
Journal of Japanese Law, Eric A Feldman wrote that 'the tobacco
establishment expresses alarm at the prevalence of 'tobacco
bashing' in Japan, and at least anecdotally smokers are
increasingly apologetic when they light up'. Advertising has
been restricted, litigation has taken place and smoker numbers
have fallen. It seems that slowly Japan is following US and
European trends in this regard. But there are of course some
unique trends that are of interest. Having always had a much
lower proportion of female smokers than in Western countries,
this figure seems to be on the rise as the parameters of
masculine and feminine undergo change. In this sense smoking
is gaining a new glamor and sexiness. While smoker numbers are
slowly decreasing, social norms in Japan seem to evolve over
different time scales and should not be presumed to fall into
US or European teleology. One writer has depicted the growth in
young female smokers as a perception change of smoking from
a 'social taboo' to a 'torch of freedom'.
(http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/cgi/content/extract/9/1/3)

Last week the United Kingdom implemented legislation banning
smoking in all enclosed spaces and places of work—could such
a thing happen in Japan? The answer must be yes, but that it
would take a much longer time for it to come about because of
the persistent differences in perceptions of smoking. The
question also forces us to revisit the paradox that for all its
homogeneity and apparent inclination for uniformity, not to
mention the links between the government, industry and
bureaucracy, Japan is an extremely free country to live in. By
contrast British and US citizens face much higher levels of
surveillance and as the recent terror plot in the UK shows—
where there is no smoke there may still be fire.

Smoking may quite literally be a social cancer but in the case
of Japan the responsibility for this must lie as much with
society as it does with Japan Tobacco—and if choosing to smoke
is a freedom, then it is a choice that must be respected. And, for
better or worse, there is little government targets can do to
change it.

By Peter Harris
Chief Editor, J@pan Inc magazine

Want to comment? It is now even easier to voice your opinion
than ever before! Visit www.japaninc.com/jin422 and click on
the 'add a comment' button at the end of the article.
Alternatively you can email it directly to the author at
peter.harris@japaninc.com

[We take all comments seriously and endeavor to meet
a high standard of accuracy - please read CORRECTIONS
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--------------------------------------------------------------

++EVENTS

-------------------- Tokyo Sinfonia--------------------

Under director Rober Rÿker
Tokyo Sinfonia, Tokyo's premier chamber orchestra, is to
treat audiences to a series of performances at Oji Hall, Ginza:

17th July - Saxophone & Strings - Otis Murphy's exquisite sax
joins Tokyo Sinfonia for renditions of Tchaikovsky, Glazunov,
Debussy and Ibert (Also at Munetsugu Hall, Nagoya on 20th July)

14th September - Symphonies for Strings - Beethoven
Grosse Fugue for Strings, Op. 133
Symphony in C Major (from Op.29)

12th December - Symphonies for Strings - Mozart
Adagio and Fugue for Strings, KV 495
Symphony for Strings in D Major (from KV.593)

Place: Oji Hall, Ginza
Price: Y6000 (single) Y10,000 (pair)
Email: tokyosinfonia@gol.com
Tel: (03) 3588 0738

-------------------- ICA Event - July 19 --------------------

Speaker: Richard S. Keirstead, CTO,
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Topic: The Best of Both Worlds: A Practically Secure Network

Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/
(RSVP Required)
Date: Thursday, July 19, 2007
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Light buffet and Open Bar included
Cost: 3,000 yen (members), 5,500 yen (non-members)
Open to all - location is Ristorante Conca d'Oro

http://www.websanko.com/b_info/akgardencity/details.html
-
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Contact Jason Sausto today at jsausto@redherring.com
for more information or visit Red Herring's website at
http://www.herringevents.com/japan07.
----------------------------------------------------------

++CORRECTIONS
JIN 420 - The Other Okinawa
The Yume Dono onsen is in Yamanashi, not Yamagata.

JIN 421- Whale Riders vs. Whale Eaters
ValueCommerce was founded by Tim Williams and Brian
Nelson is it's CEO. It is not 'Tim Nelson's' as we reported!

Tags:

Comments

What I think is more interesting about the smoking statistics in Japan is the Male/Female split. You mentioned that a quarter of the population smokes but when you just look at the male population it is over 40%. Looking at just Tokyo I don't think you'd guess that (so I suppose the gap must be wider in the country side). There are not many developed nations with such a high smoker incidence.
On the contrary, Women smokers are rare and falling in number. You mentioned in the article that it was becoming "cool" and incidence was increasing, is that just based on Tokyo? I'm pretty sure that the figure was 12.4% last year (vs 13.8% in 2005 and 14.7% back in 2001). Sure the absolute fall has been slower than for Men but on such a low base it is not really so surprizing.
These days everyone talks about the impact of the baby boomer generation retiring. Any idea what that will do to tobacco usage in the country? Do people smoke more or less after they retire? Everyone knows that (really) old people smoke less than middle-aged people but does anyone know when (or more importantly why) they stop?

Pulease,

what a transparently goofy attempt to excuse the public health scourge that is tobacco.

First, only 12 year olds can possibly imagine that smoking is cool. The vast majority of folks nowadays when they see someone smoking think,there goes another idiot who is so hooked on nicotine that he cannot free himself.

Second, confounding smoking with freedom as you attempt to do in the latter part of your piece is ridiculous. As if smoking were like freedom of speech. Words do not cause cancer. Let me make this so clear that it will penetrate any smoke screen you choose to create, smokers have no rights at all to harm others. None.

Last, you amazingly somehow do not mention at all the damage of second hand smoke. Kids in Japan, even those that do not live in a smokers home, have indications of tobacco poisoning in their blood. That is something smokers have to be proud of when they light up in crowded areas or walk the streets while smoking. Second hand smoke causes instant damage to those that are forced to inhale it. But as the author of this piece it seems more important to you to try to promote smoking as an act of freedom in Japan. Grow up. Smoking is a public health issue just like any other source of disease. Like any other narcotic it needs to be strictly controlled and its addicts need to get help. Just like heroin addicts.

I tangled with Japan Inc on this issue years ago. I am disappointed that after all these years your tobacco addiction still trumps good sense and basic human decency.

Thank you for commenting on my article.

I am sorry that you interpret my article as trying to "promote smoking". Firstly, if you read it carefully you will note that not only are there are variety of opinions considered, but also that in no way is smoking portrayed as "cool" or an act of freedom--I merely record the reality that many perceive it to be so e.g. growing numbers of young women.

Further, the article aims to explore social, legal and commercial structures that affect smoking behavior in Japan, not to debate the link between passive smoking and lung cancer, which incidentally, I happen to accept. Perhaps this would be a good subject to examine in a later newsletter.

Finally, for the record and in response to your final comment, J@pan Inc has no 'company line' on smoking and I myself am a non-smoker who dislikes breathing in secondhand smoke.

Pulease,

--> Yes, please let it be me that has the first chance to pick "smokefree's" argument to pieces....

what a transparently goofy attempt to excuse the public health scourge that is tobacco.

--> I don't see any excuses or attempt at excuses in this article, I challenge you to quote which parts sound like an excuse. The article tells us how it is in Japan.

First, only 12 year olds can possibly imagine that smoking is cool. The vast majority of folks nowadays when they see someone smoking think,there goes another idiot who is so hooked on nicotine that he cannot free himself.

--> Absolute hearsay and nothing but a doting mother's opinion. I know several 75 year olds who love smoking and count it as one of their inate freedoms.

Second, confounding smoking with freedom as you attempt to do in the latter part of your piece is ridiculous. As if smoking were like freedom of speech. Words do not cause cancer. Let me make this so clear that it will penetrate any smoke screen you choose to create, smokers have no rights at all to harm others. None.

--> My dear, words cause stress and verbal abuse is a common cause of health and mental issues, yet often more subtle than smoking. Yet we choose not to ban it.

Last, you amazingly somehow do not mention at all the damage of second hand smoke. Kids in Japan, even those that do not live in a smokers home, have indications of tobacco poisoning in their blood. That is something smokers have to be proud of when they light up in crowded areas or walk the streets while smoking. Second hand smoke causes instant damage to those that are forced to inhale it. But as the author of this piece it seems more important to you to try to promote smoking as an act of freedom in Japan. Grow up. Smoking is a public health issue just like any other source of disease. Like any other narcotic it needs to be strictly controlled and its addicts need to get help. Just like heroin addicts.

-->Laws have been introduced to fine smokers walking in the street. JT has installed smoking booths and has an aggressive advertising campaign to improve smoking manners. What more do you want?

I tangled with Japan Inc on this issue years ago. I am disappointed that after all these years your tobacco addiction still trumps good sense and basic human decency.

--> Your history aside, you "amazingly" don't say what you really want...a complete ban on all forms of tobacco. The slippery slope to fascism begins with comments such as your's based on hysterical hype and flawed opinion. Let's try and stick to facts.

Smoke free,
Do you think that underage smoking is a bigger problem in Japan compared to other developed countries? Or is it just underage passive smoking that you have a problem with? (Because I think by definition with 40% of males smoking you can expect double the rate of passive smoking in Japan vs. say USA).
Have you seen any statistics on actual underage smoking in Japan, I did a number of years ago and I remember being surprized by how low it was - can you update?

Smokefree,
why are you picking on JT? Everyone knows that Marlboro is the favorite brand of underage smokers. Go piss on Philip Morris' lawn

Yes, gather round and listen. Millions of people all over the world enjoy lighting up a ciggie and relaxing. So it can't be that bad. Some of the hottest girls I've dated have sexily sucked on a filter and blew the smoke up into the air. And what about all those well-tanned surfer guys that appear on the ciggie ads. Pretty **** hunky, yes?

Hmmm…let's pull back the curtain a bit and have a closer look.

1. According to the BMA, 80% of smokers kids grow up to be smokers themselves. Niiiiice...

2. Smokers rarely get to see their grandchildren grow up...because they're often dead by then. Yeah, I know, "there's this guy who's 90 and smokes 20 a day"...blah blah blah

3. Smokers generally have bad breath. Pretty nasty too. Of course, smokers don’t realise this because they can’t smell it themselves (similar to the way we can’t smell our own body odour). Perhaps the warning on a packet should read “Your breath stinks”. That might take away some of the “glamour”.

4. Smokers look pretty ***** don’t you think? Check it out for yourself. Go into a Tully’s café and look through the glass at the faces of the people in the smoking section. Then look at the faces of the non-smokers. Holy Moses…

Apart from that, I'd say your article is
1. Poorly researched seeing as you don't even mention "Kenkou Zoushin Law Dai25Jou"
2. Badly written eg that connection of freedom, smoking and Islamist bombers. What are you thinking?
3. Looks like it passed the editor's desk untouched. Oh hang on…you are the editor :)

[Editor's Note: offensive language has been edited out from this post in accordance with our editorial policy]

Dear All,

What a pity this debate doesn't reach the quality of this article which, unlike 'Activist' I found to be very informed and full of facts that it is good for my work.

I am doing a Phd in gender studies in Japan and, like the first comment, am curious to discuss with you about male/female smoking practices.

To Red - female smoker numbers in Japan are lower than male but the point is that they are increasing. You should read this article for example: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uid...

Smoking in Japan has become over the years a key constituent of masculinity that only now women are able to change, and their lungs have become less important to them than their ability to obtain power. The paternal society makes it hard for women to smoke just as it makes it harder for them to become civil servants.

How about China and Korea? Smoking there is also linked to masculine/feminine power struggle. Until women enter the government, and tobacco industry in larger numbers in these coutries it will be hard to expect quantitative change in overall smoker numbers. But when that happens smoking will likely decrease as women, being the childbearer have a more natural aversion to breathing in pollutants. At the moment this aversion is constrained and so unnatural adoption of masculine practice is a necessary evil.

Yours faithfully,

Lucy

Lucy,
Thanks for the follow up. It sounds like you are hitting the same barrier as I am - the lack of useful data on this topic. The research report that you sent me was interesting but it is hard to take away too much from a report from four years ago in a University in Miyagi.
That report says that 16% of the females surveyed smoked. Back then the percentage of the entire female population in Japan was 14% (2002 calendar year). When you consider that the smoking incidence is probably very low amongst women over 60 then that doesn't particularly strike me as any proof that the incidence of smoking amongst young women to be rising.
What was particularly interesting in that article was the comment about the brand that they smoked: Marlboro 39% and Mild Seven 16%. Good on ya Marlboro Cowboy - how did you know that? I'm presonally quite surprised that Marlboro (which I associate with men due to the cowboy image itself) is that high amongst young women as well as young men.
Lucy, have you seen any other research?

I was horrified to hear from my wife, who pours cups of tea at head office of Itochu, that Itochu will have a smoking section in the cafe where she works from next month. My wife was happy that she had a clean and smokefree workplace. As it is Itochu severely lacks in tea pourers and now several of the staff are considering quitting. I know smokers think that their habit is somehow good for socializing, but I seriously doubt the Itochu CEO, Eizo Kobayashi's judgment on allowing smoking in his building.
My wife will quit (we are thinking of having a baby and health is really important for us) and Itochu will have one less employee.

Hi Peter,

Thanks for your article on Japan's smoking. As I report across Asia for Asian and Japanese media, I have reported oftern on Japanese Smoking that is slowly killing the population (and their families) from the effects of active and passive smoking

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare Jinko dotai tokei 2004 report a drastic rise in cancer and a rise in cerebral haemorrage and heart disease from 1935 - 2004.

http://fpcj.jp/old/e/mres/publication/ff/pdf/02_population.pdf see page 23 Trends in causes of death.

This may be attributed to smoking and the thirty or so years that it takes for the cancer from cigarettes often to develop.

While the Ministry of Health promote the dangers of smoking, the Finance Dept pocket the taxes from cigarettes.

Thank goodness for Starbucks in Japan which I do not go to in any other country - it is the only smoke free restaurant I could find.

Here in Australia we are smoke free all inside places and loving it.

I come to Japan at least once - twice per year for my research for articles and lectures

cheers

Carole Goldsmith

I often read or hear argument between smokers and non smokers, and it inevitably revolves around tobacco. I think smokers miss the point.
Personally I don't care whether you smoke or not - it is you right to do whatever you want in my opinion.
However when you inflict what you 'want' on others is where the argument starts.
Smokers say it is their right, but let me have you imagine this. Lets say a guy walks into a closed room, with a group of smokers, who are all happily smoking away. They ask him "mind if we smoke" and he says "you do what you want and I will do what I want", at which point he opens his jar of rotten eggs, letting the gas escape, and sits there with a look of bliss on his face. Imagine the feeling of disgust and horror the smokers would have.
Now you may understand the way non-smokers feel about smokers. Do it in your own space, remember how far the stink travels. Imagine if you were walking down the street smoking (while the guy behind you is desperately trying to get in front of you so he doesn't need to be in your 'slipstream of smoke'), and suddenly the guy in front opened his rotten egg gas for you... again, imagine your disgust.
Wake up - consider others.

I don't know who invented cigarettes, I am a smoker and I am not proud of it . Tobacco has become a serious political and economical problem but it is also a social problems as it cause a large number of deaths world wide. I don't agree with smoking in public places and this should not be a debate, it's best to accept things. I seriously thinking to give up smoking and attend a drug rehab program as I don't think I can do it alone.

I think that cigarettes and smoking should be made illegal ...it is as bad as any other drug or narcotic....it kills you slow..

In U.S. legal context, narcotic refers to opium, opium derivatives, and their semi-synthetic or fully synthetic substitutes "as well as cocaine and coca leaves," which although classified as "narcotics" in the U.S. Controlled Substances Act (CSA), are chemically not narcotics. Contrary to popular belief, marijuana is not a narcotic, nor are LSD and other psychedelic drugs.

For chewing tobacco, dipping tobacco and snuff, which are held in the mouth between the lip and gum, or taken in the nose, the amount released into the body tends to be much greater than smoked tobacco.

Nevertheless, because smoking is such a powerful risk factor for the development of coronary atherosclerosis (hardening and blockage of the arteries of the heart), heart disease is by far the most common cause of death in smokers.

These are some interesting and scary facts about tobacco use in Japan. 30 million people are smokers??? This is a huge number considering their restrictive tobacco history. I think 2010 is to soon to reduce the number of smokier to a half.

Apologies in advance for an overlong post.

As an avid non-smoker and long-term resident of Osaka, I try to maintain an optimistic outlook on the vexing issue of second-hand smoke in this country.

There have been some positive developments in the past ten years or so. While merely anecdotal, here are some "green shoots" I've noticed:

(1) Some recent live concerts I've attended (Tommy Guerrero, Arcade Fire, Yo La Tengo -- each at a different venue in Osaka) have successfully instigated a non-smoking policy. Encouragingly, at all three concerts almost all of the patrons abided by the policy -- quite an achievement in the 20-30 y.o. rock 'n' roll demographic. This shows that a wider smoking ban at all concert venues would be feasible.

(2) Smoke-free office spaces are increasingly becoming the norm. My own company office became smoke-free three years ago when we moved into a new building with a more enlightened building-wide non-smoking policy. Smokers can get their fix outside or on the top floor balcony, so aren't overly inconvenienced. Also, they no doubt smoke less, now that they need to make a special trip away from their desks. Big health wins all round.

(3) Given the population density in large Japanese cities, it's impressive how few people violate the non-smoking rules in public spaces (subway platforms, trains, underground courseways etc.). Perhaps this merely reflects the stereotype of Japanese as more rule-abiding than Westerners, but it gives one hope that any future smoking bans in restaurants etc will be followed.

While I may despise second-hand smoke -- and as a life-long asthmatic, believe me, I do -- I strongly believe in protecting people's freedom to put into their body whatever they like. Since tobacco will never be outlawed, we should consider it a healthcare issue first, and a point of etiquette second.

Tobacco addiction should be treated in a similar way to alcohol or drug addiction. I agree with The Economist's position of de-criminalising all drugs and focusing on educating kids and rehabilitating users who have problems with their chosen drug.

When it comes to the etiquette of second-hand smoke, Japan is still quite a long way behind the West. As alluded to in a previous post, JT has made a half-hearted attempt to address this with their "Smoking Clean" ashtrays and quasi-humorous Smoking Etiquette campaign http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan_Tobacco#Smoking_etiquette_posters

These ads fall quite a long way short of the kind of shocking imagery seen in anti-smoking ads in Canada, NZ, etc. And surely Japan's Ministry of Health, not its biggest tobacco company, should be the one designing these ads.

Anyway, here's to smoke-free bars and restaurants, and being able to taste your sushi and knock back a ji-biiru without choking on your neighbour's fumes!

John B
Osaka

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