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Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010


Sharper prod to quit smoking

The tobacco tax was raised by ¥3.5 per cigarette on Oct. 1, raising the price of a pack of 20 cigarettes by ¥110-¥140 to ¥410-¥440. This record tobacco price hike means ¥40,000 more spending a year for a person who smokes one pack a day. But this offers a good chance to quit smoking for smokers who can't seem to make up his or her mind.

When the Liberal Democratic Party was in power, the tobacco tax had been raised every three to five years by less than ¥1 per cigarette since 1998. The Democratic Party of Japan, which came to power in September 2009, opted for a steep raise from the viewpoint of protecting people's lives. Smoking is the biggest cause of death that can be prevented; it is estimated that more than 5.3 million people die annually worldwide — more than 130,000 in Japan. The number of people suffering from tobacco-linked cancer and lung disease is much larger.

According to Japan Tobacco, the percentage of smokers is 36.6 percent for men, down 2.3 points from 2009, and 12.1 percent for women, up 0.2 point. Some 11,000 hospitals and clinics across the nation offer treatment to stop reliance on nicotine. The cost for the treatment is said to be about half the cost for smoking.

A survey showed that 60 percent of smokers considered stopping smoking as the tobacco prices rose Oct. 1. JT expects a decrease of 25 percent in tobacco consumption in the coming year. If one pack costs ¥500 or more, many more people may quit smoking.

Health damage from passive smoking should not be ignored. A team at the National Cancer Center estimates that at least 6,800 Japanese die annually from exposure to tobacco smokes — some 4,600 of them women. Some 3,600 people die from exposure to tobacco smoke at the workplace.

A complete ban on smoking should be promoted at workplaces and in public spaces. The government should consider abolishing the Tobacco Industry Law, which contradicts the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to which Japan is a party, and push measures to help tobacco farmers change crops.

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