Japan remains very much a smoker's paradise with low prices (around 410 yen for a standard pack of 20), weakly worded health warnings on cigarette packets and no sign on the political horizon of a European-style blanket smoking ban in workplaces, bars and restaurants. There is just not the official will for that sort of drastic anti-smoking measure in Japan at the moment—a will that cannot be expected to strengthen while the commercial behemoth that is Japan Tobacco is such a lucrative source of income for the government.
However, restrictions on tobacco use are increasing. Most urban areas have no-smoking zones outside major train stations and in various busy thoroughfares. These are particularly strict in Tokyo, where weed-addicted office workers huddle into cramped spaces reserved for smoking, surrounded by vending machines, ash trays and occasionally smoke extractors.
Long gone are the days of cigarette smoke being sucked in to Tokyo's subway stations from over-flowing ashtrays at station entrances. The on-street smoking bans around places such as Tokyo and Shibuya Stations are also in response to incidents of lit cigarettes burning young children in the face as smokers bustle through the packed crowds with burning fags in their hands.
Another sign of the times is the introduction of the TASPO ID card to reduce underage smoking at the nation's millions of vending machines.
Only available to people over 20, with proof of identification, a TASPO Smart Card is now necessary to purchase tobacco products from vending machines. Take up of the cards has been low and after the scheme's subsequent introduction there have been calls from smokers' groups to allow vending machines to once again dispense tobacco between 11pm-6am. At the moment cigarette machines automatically close during the night.
Smoking has also been banned in most of the nation's taxis and is only allowed in certain smoking areas on train station platforms and in designated smoking carriages on trains and the Shinkansen bullet train.
In 2005 the smoking rate among Japanese men declined to 45.8% with the rate among women rising to to 13.8% according to a JT survey.
Nevertheless, of all cancers, lung cancer is the number one killer in Japan, and smokers here are deemed to be at 4 to 5 times greater risk of contracting lung cancer than non-smokers.
Japan Tobacco (JT) - the world's 3rd largest tobacco company
Smoke Free Japan - has a few links to smoke-free bars and restaurants (not currently updated)
Yahoo Japan Auction Service
Book a hotel in Japan with Booking.com
Tokyo Serviced Apartments
Japanese For Busy People
smoking JT TASPO
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
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