Jun 13, 2016

News: Smoking in Japan - No graphic images, please. They’re off-putting!

On June 7 a government panel in Japan advised against the placement of graphic images on packets of cigarettes, suggesting that they might be unnerving.

News: Smoking in Japan - No graphic images, please. They’re off-putting! photo

It’s worth noting that said panel was, according to an article in The Asahi Shimbun, Panel rejects graphic pics on cigarette packs, cites ‘discomfort’ (June 8, 2016), a subcommittee of the Fiscal System Council, itself an advisory body to the government’s finance minister. Perhaps it would be fair to say then that the bit about images on cigarette packets being unnerving could be finished off along the lines of, … so folks might stop buying em’.

Still, commenting on what was or wasn’t said in these advisory meetings would be pure speculation on our part, as we weren’t part of them (ridiculous, we know). We are, however, in Japan and feel it’s OK to speculate that many may see smoking as very prevalent in Japan. Where a number of countries that us expats hail from have taken pretty stringent measures to get people to stop smoking, Japan still seems comparatively relaxed about it. Yes, the number of non-smoking restaurants is on the increase, and an army of retirees now patrol the streets of urban Japan, ready to dish out fines to those who light up in inappropriate zones. But really, cigs can still be bought from vending machines, they only cost from 400 yen, public ashtrays abound, and, for most of us, the health warnings written on packets are illegible.  

In light of this news and our ideas of Japan being bit of a smoker’s paradise, let’s see how the country ranks in tobacco consumption compared to others.

According to a World Health Organisation ‘Fact Sheet’ updated this month (June 2016), 80% of the 1 billion smokers in the world live in low- and middle-income countries. The same WHO also has some stats entitled ‘Prevalence of tobacco smoking’ where they break down the globe in terms of percentages of persons aged 15+ who smoke within given countries. Here we see that Japan fits into the bracket of those countries in the 30.0-39.9 percentage. The highest bracket covers those at 40+%.  

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) is a group of 34 countries with the mission of improving economic and social well-being of people around the world. For one of their health reports in 2015, they looked at similar statistics among member nations. Business Insider UK did a piece on the results entitled 22 wealthy nations that smoke the most. They ranked the countries thus (the % is that country's smoking rate): 

22South Africa19.8%
21South Korea19.9%
19Switzerland 20.4%
17Germany 20.9%
16Italy 21.1%
15Czech Republic 22.2%
13Austria 23.2%
10Spain 23.9%

The Tobacco Atlas has Japan as smoking between 1,500-1,999 cigarettes per year per person 15 yrs or over.

This is inline with data offered on Wikipedia which has Japan sitting at No. 22 in a list of countries ordered by the average number of cigarettes an adult individual smokes per year. The top 10 is dominated by countries from Eastern Europe with Montenegro, Belarus, Lebanon, Macedonia, and Russia (Yes, we know that Lebanon is not in Europe.). Samoa, Rwanda, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, and Guinea make up the bottom 5 of a list that covers 184 countries.

Of Japan’s neighbors. From the same list:

PositionCountryConsumption per capita per year
16South Korea2072.57
91North Korea609.67

Any surprises here for you?

Back to those graphic images on cigarette packets in Japan. According the article in The Asahi Shimbun, one member of the advisory panel said of the graphic images as warnings, that they, “should be weighed only after the effect of such packaging abroad is fully examined.”

So, over to you. Do you think those graphic images we can see on cigarette packages in other parts of the world should be used in Japan, too? Smokers. Would it make any difference to your smoking habits here in Japan?

Twitter: City_Cost_Japan



The Asahi Shimbun / Business Insider UK / World Health Organization / Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development / Wikipedia / The Tobacco Atlas 

Image (cropped)

Stéfan Flickr License 



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  • helloalissa

    on Jun 15

    Hmmm, I don't know if the images help. It might actually be smart to look at data from other countries that use the images - to see if it works and is worth the cost to change the packaging. Smokers tend to know it's not healthy, but smoking is super addictive so they have a really hard time quitting. I think being honest with the smokers we know - letting them know it's not okay to smoke around you, for example, might be more effective in pressuring them to quit. I hate being around smoke and would love to see laws in Japan limit smoking in Family restaurants, where the 'smoking section' commonly starts at the table right next to your 'non-smoking section' table. I appreciate the few places which don't allow smoking or have a real smoking section that limits the smell. In contrast with laws in California, where I'm from, they're so lax here. In California, smoking in any restaurant and in most public spaces is prohibited unless a separate ventilated smoking room is provided, and it's against the law to smoke in a car while a minor is in it. It's still a problem that people stand right outside of entrances smoking, so we have to walk past them to go in or out of the restaurant.

  • KyodoNewsPlus

    on Jun 20

    @helloalissa It would be interesting to see some data about the effect of images. Personally, I think that someone who is addicted won't be put off by them.