JIN-466 -- Smoking in Japan Revisited

J@pan Inc Newsletter
The 'JIN' J@pan Inc Newsletter
A weekly opinion piece on social, economic and political trends
in Japan.
Issue No. 466 Wednesday May 21, 2008, Tokyo

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Back in July last year, we tackled the topic of smoking in Japan
http://www.japaninc.com/jin422. Our line was that although
governments and tobacco companies do have to take some
responsibility, ultimately, society should be able to decide
for itself whether it has a place for tobacco. This caused some
debate on our website with some readers choosing to interpret
the article as an endorsement of smoking which, as the piece
makes clear, is not the case. While unsure of the need for more
laws that deal with our private habits, we fully take on board
the reasons why smoking is a negative in terms of health and
particularly, the need to protect children. Critically, the good
sense to regulate smoking behavior should come from our own
initiatives and sense of responsibility.

Nonetheless, since last year there have been some interesting
developments, some of them in terms of tackling underage
smoking. ID cards for tobacco vending machines came in early
this year and some prefectures, notably Kanagawa, have begun
to discuss banning smoking in public places (for more see
http://www.japaninc.com/node/3116). A machine that identifies
the age of the purchaser by measuring the extent of their
wrinkles is also on the horizon. Shiga prefecture has hosted
an ‘Open forum against tobacco’ and in Kansai, Itami city
government have also launched a ‘smoking cessation plan.’

Moreover, according to research compiled by McCann Healthcare
Worldwide Japan (MHWJ), there is a growing awareness of smoking
as a health problem and Japanese society shows all the signs of
moving to change the social and legal structure to tackle the
ill-effects smoking. According to one survey, more than 50% of
male respondents in their 50s want their colleagues to quit,
and, limitations on vending machine opening hours and locations
has started to discourage smokers. Meanwhile, tax on tobacco is
rising steadily although cigarettes in Japan are still
relatively cheap in comparison with other developed countries.
Additionally, more and more young females are taking up smoking
and over 27% of Japanese doctors smoke.

It is in that spirit that J@pan Inc together with McCann MHWJ,
and our sister publication Metropolis magazine, have decided to
sponsor a publicity campaign to raise the profile of World No
Tobacco Day, happening on May 31. This campaign is coordinated
by the World Health Organization
(http://www.who.int/tobacco/wntd/2008/en/) and is a global
effort, not to preach about the dangers of tobacco, but to
promote the health of young people via prevention and protection
from the dangers of second-hand smoke.

The focus of this campaign is children and the advertisements we
are sponsoring (at top) are aimed at parents or guardians, encouraging
them not to smoke in the vicinity of their children. While
awareness may have improved, public smoking regulations in Japan
are much freer than in many countries, particularly when
compared to North America and the UK. Beyond this, many smokers
who are parents appear to practice doublethink in telling their
young children not to smoke, and yet smoking in their presence,
even in enclosed spaces such as small apartments and cars.
We don't need to wait for rules and regulations before making
such small steps towards preserving the health of our children.

Peter Harris

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Well, I would guess that you are a smoker. Am I right? If so that may cause a bias in your attitude towards smoking. If I am wrong please accept my apologies.

To be honest the reason I say this is that some time ago you wrote about your first impression of a Japanese taxi. You wrote the driver was smoking, wearing a cap and white gloves and then said you were impressed at the cleanliness of it all. Probably a non-smoker would not consider smoking inside a car to be anything close to clean.

Regarding a previous article about increasing numbers of young women smoking you attributed it to some form of emancipation. That conveys a positive image. It may be true. But it was a glaring omission that you failed to mention either

1. the heavy advertising of cigarettes portraying beautiful young women with slogans like "naturally me" or portraying fit healthy young girls at the seaside with handsome boys and cigarettes; or

2. the prevalence of smoking scenes in TV dramas aimed at a younger audience

Perhaps these can reveal another reason for the increase in young female smokers.


For the record, I am a non-smoker.