Continuing its recent efforts to reduce smoking, and improve public health, the Japanese government has set a goal to reduce the adult smoking rate to twelve percent over the next ten years. This is the first time the government has decided on a precise figure. Pushing the smoking rate down to twelve percent will be no easy task. A recent report from the Health Ministry had the overall smoking rate at around twenty percent for 2010, and the rate for just men was significantly higher at over 32 percent.
The folks in the Health Ministry have good cause to be concerned about the smoking rate; according to their research, cancer has been the most prevalent cause of death in Japan since 1981, and claimed 350,000 lives in 2010 alone. Smoking is one of the leading causes of cancer, and reducing the smoking rate is one of the most important parts of the Health Ministry’s long-term cancer-fighting program. In addition to the new ten-year target for the overall smoking rate, the plan also seeks to reduce secondhand smoke exposure for nonsmokers. The Health Ministry’s plan pushes for a completely smoke-free workplace in eight years, and wants no more than fifteen percent of patrons of restaurants to be exposed to secondhand smoke by 2022.
The government has recently begun using some of the same tactics to reduce smoking that have proven effective in other countries. In 2010 they raised the tax on cigarettes by ¥70 (US $0.80) a pack, effectively increasing the price by 40 percent. People wanting to light up have also been relegated to increasingly smaller and more remote smoking areas. These efforts have not been unsuccessful in Japan either, the yearly Japan Tobacco Inc. survey shows that the smoking rate has trended downward for the past 16 years, with figures at their lowest ever in 2011. If the government continues on this path, their ten year goals should not prove unattainable.
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