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Japan – Tobacco Lies (02 Jun 2004)

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Smoking was completely banned on five private railways running through the Kanto region in Tokyo on 1 May 2003 to stay in line with the Health Promotion Law, which, taking effect on the same day, aimed to prevent ‘ passive smoking ’ . The new policy was described by some critics as “ too little, too late ” , as the ban only affected only five private railways, excluding the JR networks, which covered the biggest area of the city.Anti-smoking activists have been expressing dissatisfaction with the Japanese government for its ambivalent attitude towards the control of tobacco use. They pointed out that legislation was often introduced only to diffuse criticism, without due consideration of the practicalities of law enforcement. According to a survey, as of 2002, 49.1% of males and 14% of females in Japan were smokers. In other words, tobacco consumers accounted for 30% of the country ’ s population. Although the ratio of male smokers has already fallen sharply from an all-time high figure of 87.1% in 1996, the current level was still the highest among developed economies. The problem of female smokers was particularly alarming, as the decrease in smoking population is insignificant. Still, puffing away has become a fad among young people. While selling cigarette to people below 20 is prohibited by law, it is not difficult for the minors to buy tobacco, as there are more than 600,000 vending machines all over the country.Tobacco has become an important source of revenue in Japan since 1625. In 1996, every person brought 2,669 cigarettes on average, making the country top tobacco sellers in the world, second only to Greece. Globally, Japan is also the third biggest tobacco market, next to China and the United States. Tobacco sales contribute a handsome tax income of nearly 4 trillion Yen annually. As Tokyo is a two-third shareholder of Japan Tobacco, anti-smoking policies initiated by the government can hardly wholehearted.Will Japan sacrifice the health of its next generation in its pursuit of revenues?

Program: 
Smoke Free Planet
Publish Date: 
Wednesday, June 2, 2004
Station: 
RTHK
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