politics

Politician pushing to double price of cigarettes in Japan by start of 2020 Olympics

46 Comments
By Casey Baseel, RocketNews24

Japan has a pretty intense mix of emotions about Tokyo serving as host of the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. On one hand, as a country that prides itself on hospitality and is always pleased to see people of other nations taking an interest in its traditions and accomplishments, many locals are excited about hosting the Games.

But on the other hand, the surge in visitors and attention from abroad that Japan will be experiencing has some worried about how certain social norms of the geographically, and at times socially, insular nation will be perceived by the international community. For example, Japanese smoking restrictions are much laxer than those in many similarly developed countries.

With Japanese public opinion also gradually becoming more critical of second-hand smoke, some legislators are arguing that now is as good a time as any to begin transitioning to stricter regulations and anti-smoking measures. The Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare is contemplating an indoor smoking ban that would prohibit lighting up in restaurants and bars, and now Akiko Santo, a member of the House of Councilors and the head of its Second-hand Smoke Prevention Committee, is pushing for another dramatic change.

On Oct 25, Santo formally suggested to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga that the government look into the ramifications of significantly raising tobacco taxes, to the extent that a single pack of cigarettes would cost more than 1,000 yen. Should such a move be carried out, the retail price of an average pack would be more than double what it is now. While no official legislation has been introduced for debate, Santo seems determined to implement higher taxes on cigarettes by 2020, saying “The Olympics are coming up, and the timing is right.”

Source: Jiji

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Japanese government mulling indoor smoking ban to be introduced as early as next year -- All censor, no sense: Recent cover-ups in Jojo anime are laughably bad, kind of pointless -- Tokyo considering removing overhead power lines in run-up to 2020 Olympics

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46 Comments
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How about banning indoor smoking and raising the price now instead of delaying for years.

13 ( +17 / -4 )

Now there is an idea I can get behind. Raise the price to Y1000, and use the profits for now to pay for the stupid Olympics, then, use the money to help pay for pensions and health care costs. It's a win win situation. Smokers will keep paying, but maybe it will convince others to quit. Of course Japan Tobacco will be against it, but then can find other ways to make money, much like Fujifilm has now become a medical company.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

"government look into the ramifications of significantly raising tobacco taxes, to the extent that a single pack of cigarettes would cost more than 1,000 yen."

Make it jpy 2000. A significant cigarette price hike has always been a good deterrent, more ppl will either 'try harder' quitting or simply not take up smoking in the first place. More $ into govt coffers, less health care costs for both govt and individuals. Just make tobacco more expensive Japan you know you want/need it.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

I'll believe it when I see it.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

"... some worried about how certain social norms of the geographically, and at times socially, insular nation will be perceived by the international community... "

I'm all for indoor ban and price increase, but health should be the prime mover in these changes rather than concerns about how Japan may be perceived. With so many goals and targets, 2020 is shaping as a massive year.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Raise the price and use the extra fees to put out anti-smoking campaigns.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Now there is an idea I can get behind. Raise the price to Y1000, and use the profits for now to pay for the stupid Olympics, then, use the money to help pay for pensions and health care costs. It's a win win situation.

I agree. They should double the price of alcohol too. If not more.

-4 ( +6 / -10 )

Japan still isn't really prepared for such radical changes. Still see parents lighting up holding babies/kids here, or people smoking next to people having a meal without any regard.

Smoking isn't viewed as negatively here as it is in a lot of the West.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

More $ into govt coffers

Let's remember that govt wins either way: from lower taxes (higher profits) or higher taxes (lower sales), as it's required by law to retain at least a third of global tobacco giant JT.

With spiraling public health costs, why not triple prices, to be like Norway!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

With spiraling public health costs, why not triple prices, to be like Norway!

Seeing as smokers cost less to the health care system over time, tripling prices would likely cause more people to quit, and end up spiraling health costs even higher.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Strangerland,

Not sure your correct. Biggest cause of death in Japan for men is lung cancer mostly caused by smoking. Treating lung cancer is extremely expensive. If older people are healthy their costs are low, if they smoke they die earlier yes but their healthcare costs are high at the end of life.

Agree this should be done sooner rather than later but such is the way of politics in Japan.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Not sure your correct. Biggest cause of death in Japan for men is lung cancer mostly caused by smoking. Treating lung cancer is extremely expensive. If older people are healthy their costs are low, if they smoke they die earlier yes but their healthcare costs are high at the end of life.

There is plenty of research that shows that people who live longer cost more, because their end-of-life healthcare costs are expensive. Smokers cost less as they die earlier. Same with obese people.

I'm not making this up, it's been well established.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Cancer and cardio treatment are more expensive than other types of treatment. Looking only at actuarial tables provides a reductionist, simplistic view of something that is more complex.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Double!!?? Why not quadruple the price in all of Japan? They should be taxed extra for exposing non smokers to that awful smoke and all the chemicals!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

tripling prices would likely cause more people to quit, and end up spiraling health costs even higher. well then theres the moral issue, should will let smokers continue to smoke and die younger costing the health system less, or should we help them quit leading longer healthier lives? Or when the health care costs become unbearable we could have voluntary euthanasia!? Personally I prefer to help smokers quit.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

EEEEHHH??? A mere member of the House of Councilors suggesting such a thing. Kudos to your boldness. But I'm guessing the delight factory will have something to say about this. Japan is one of the last bastions of big tobacco. I'm certain JTB and friends have enough politicians in pocket (probably including cabinet member Mr Suga), to block this kind of (completely sensible) move and keep it out of the press. Then, a bit later, they'll have the likes of Akiko Sando serving green tea to the Oyaji politicians for the rest of her days. What was she thinking! This is Japan!. Of course, after lots of lengthy late night study meetings there might be a 5-10% increase years away. Anyway we shall see.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Cancer and cardio treatment are more expensive than other types of treatment. Looking only at actuarial tables provides a reductionist, simplistic view of something that is more complex.

Whose looking only at actuarial tables?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Stranger - there's a lot of urban myth-ism swirling around that claim of smokers die early so cost less. I'd really like to see some definitive, authorative, comprehensive long term data results confirming such.

And number crunchers always talk in monetary terms re costs. How about the social cost? What is the cost of a broken distraught family? What is the cost of an otherwise able worker and contributor to family to society in many ways, dying much earlier ? Incalculable I'd guess.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I'm sure they'll need a new government agency to oversee the raise in cigarette prices. That's some tough work!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'd really like to see some definitive, authorative, comprehensive long term data results confirming such.

Ask and thou shalt receive: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-04-08-fda-tobacco-costs_N.htm

Vanderbilt University economist Kip Viscusi studied the net costs of smoking-related spending and savings and found that for every pack of cigarettes smoked, the country reaps a net cost savings of 32 cents.

And:

A Dutch study published last year in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal said that health care costs for smokers were about $326,000 from age 20 on, compared to about $417,000 for thin and healthy people.

Here's another: http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2012/03/22/alcohol-obesity-and-smoking-do-not-cost-health-care-systems-money/#679f8fb713c2

The lifetime costs were in Euros:

Healthy: 281,000

Obese: 250,000

Smokers: 220,000

And those are just the first two articles that came up. There are many others.

tripling prices would likely cause more people to quit, and end up spiraling health costs even higher. well then theres the moral issue, should will let smokers continue to smoke and die younger costing the health system less, or should we help them quit leading longer healthier lives? Or when the health care costs become unbearable we could have voluntary euthanasia!? Personally I prefer to help smokers quit.

Why should you help someone do something they don't want to do? If someone wants to smoke, they should have every right to smoke. I don't drink much (a couple of drinks every month or two), and I think drinking is extremely harmful, but if someone wants to drink, they can go right ahead.

Now if you want to help someone who wants to quit, then I'd agree. I think we should provide the patch for free to people who want to quit, and maybe even those quit smoking drugs.

But doubling or tripling the price of cigarettes is not help to quit, it's punitive.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

The Forbes link addresses only the costs in healthcare, not the costs from lost labour, taxes, etc. The USAToday page appears to be paralysed with ads so that it doesn't scroll, so I'm not sure if that addresses this issue or not.

Purely anecdotal, but not, I feel, far from the typical; my father suffered a heart attack (caused by smoking) in his 40s that prevented him from ever again putting in a full day's work. He retired for health reasons in his early fifties, from which point he paid no taxes, and received disability benefit in addition to free health care under the NHS until he died just short of his 64th birthday.

My brother also smoked and drank himself into invalidity in his 40s, and spent the next 20 years off work (disability benefit, again) and in and out of hospital for a whole range of smoking and alcohol-related conditions, from heart disease to lung cancer to pancreatitis. He spent the last 7 years or so of his life more or less house-bound because dragging around the oxygen tank he needed to cope with his emphysema prevented him moving very far. So in addition to the extensive medical care he received, he also got home helpers, health visitors and home improvements subsidised by the state to help him get around inside the house. He also died in his early sixties.

The idea that 'Smokers save us money because they die earlier than healthy people' ignores the fact that many smokers not only take from the health system, their condition often prevents them paying the taxes, insurance premiums, etc., that a healthy person pays in the course of a normal healthy life.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Stranger - thank you for the links. I agree with the data. I've read simiilar reports before. I'll file these for future reference.

I certainly wouldn't argue totally against facts - my mother's younger brother (my uncle) died at age 55 from smoking induced lung cancer complications. An ugly death. Her older brother died at 72 from a brain aneurysm - the surgeon assured was due to a lifetime of heavy smoking. Her older sister, a non-smoker and now 86 is alive and well. So - yes signing out early at age 55 saved a lot of tax $.

But if we're talking $ - dead people don't earn, don't buy, don't invest, don't pay taxes, in fact they don't contribute finacially to society at all. In many cases dead people who die young (er) create immeasurable costs beyond the capacity of number crunchers to quantify. If smokers didn't smoke and didn't die early what would they do with their money? What possible innumerable benefits were never realized because the money was never earnt? My 55 year old uncle's business certainly stopped the day he dropped, putting my partially invalid aunt on a widows pension. Cost???

Which is what I was kind of alluding to earlier. Whenever I've had this discussion in real life - as recent as last year in Australia with my lifelong smoking friends - they invariably bring out the "We cost less because we die early argument"

Yes & No. The same as the studies - yes & no.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The idea that 'Smokers save us money because they die earlier than healthy people' ignores the fact that many smokers not only take from the health system, their condition often prevents them paying the taxes, insurance premiums, etc., that a healthy person pays in the course of a normal healthy life.

Fair enough. But so do lots of things. Sometimes skydivers die. Should we ban skydiving? Swimming results in even more deaths. Should we ban that? etc.

Now that all said, the original comment I was replying to was:

With spiraling public health costs, why not triple prices

And I think I've shown that being punitive to smokers for health costs is not justified. If we go that route, then it's only fair to tax alcohol drinkers at an equivalently punitive level.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Ok I say yes and now 100% , but then you making a back market. I can easy see Akusa 20,s being under every counter. Here is a statistic, the least time Japan Government increased a pack of smoke by 100% , overnight 75% of smokers gave up. There was threats of strikes last time also. That was 2011 If I am correct.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The lifetime costs were in Euros:

Healthy: 281,000

Obese: 250,000

Smokers: 220,000

What about comparative productivity and net contribution to public coffers?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

the least time Japan Government increased a pack of smoke by 100% , overnight 75% of smokers gave up.

I don't think cigarettes have ever increased in price by 100% here.

What about comparative productivity and net contribution to public coffers?

What about it? There is no obligation to pay into these. And a loss in contribution is just that - there is no cost to it, just a loss of benefit. Cost is when you pay out.

It's like if one of my employees was supposed to work 10 hours, at 5000 yen/hr, invoicing our client for 100,000 yen - I'd make 50,000 yen (100,000 - (10 5000)). If that employee suddenly only worked 5 hours, I'd only be able to bill half, but I'd also only pay half, meaning I'd still make 25,000 yen (50,000 - (5 5000)).

I'd still make money, I just wouldn't make as much money.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I know a increase in alcohol sale tax won,t stop people from drinking less. But a increase in tobacco sale tax dose stop people from smoking. So I notice beer has a different tax impose on it compare the spirits. Why should that be. Is there a different tax on pipe tobacco compare to cigars compare to cigs. what has also amuse me that a 750ml bottle of JD is Y1500 with a case of beer is Y5000. If they increase smoke by 100% then spirits and wines should have the same 100% increase. I have seen 200ml jar of sake for Y90 and right next to it is a 200ml of coke for Y120. Now that is wrong.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Daylight robbery, just to impress a few whining gaijin visiting for a few days during the Olympics.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I know a increase in alcohol sale tax won,t stop people from drinking less.

Sure it will.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Browny1 has Strangerland completely beat in the logic area. Strangerland, the total cost to society and the degradation in daily life caused by smokers to themselves, their family, coworkers, and we strangers who have to be in their smoking vicinity is a cost, just not financial. Lots more to life than sheer cost, so I think you are going down a too-narrow path for evaluations. Lot of good comments above.

Speaking of cash, though, how about all the people who avoid any indoor smoking establishment? When smoking indoors is banned, those places suddenly find they have lots of new customers. Pretty much a no-brainer, I should think. Plus, places that ban smoking from the start are cleaner, have loads of customers, and I suspect the staff sticks around longer.

By the way, "second hand smoke" does not magically become cleaner by traveling around inside a smoker's nose and throat. Standing next to the sod, I am essentially smoking right along with (usually) him.

The sooner Japan joins the rest of the civilized non-smoking world the better. Pretty sure the society in general is ready for it. The Olympics should be the final catalyst. And, yes, why wait until 2020. Start NOW and rake in the taxes to help pay for the Olympics. When they are over, how about helping those forgotten folks in Tokushima get real homes? Etc.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

the total cost to society and the degradation in daily life caused by smokers to themselves, their family, coworkers, and we strangers who have to be in their smoking vicinity is a cost, just not financial. Lots more to life than sheer cost, so I think you are going down a too-narrow path for evaluations.

And once again, I was replying to this comment which was directly addressing public health costs.

With spiraling public health costs, why not triple prices

Now, if we're going to get punitive against smokers, then we should also be getting equally punitive against alcohol, and fattening foods. Anything with any alcohol or sugar in it should be taxed at equally exorbitant rates.

We should also be adding taxes on anything with any inherent danger to it, like skydiving, kayaking, rock climbing, camping, boxing etc. Anything that may result in a person not being able to contribute as much to society as they are expected to.

We should also start adding taxes on cars, as cars kill people regularly, taking them out of the work force, and therefore unable to contribute to the coffers of society.

For that matter, we should star taxing non-essential (ie - work related) internet usage, as the time people spend using the internet is time that they are not producing money, and therefore taking money out of the coffers of society.

The sooner Japan joins the rest of the civilized non-smoking world the better.

That's odd, I've never been to a country where smoking is banned. Where is this magical place you speak of?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Smoking is not enjoyable to the smoker. it is a very addictive drug, very simular to meth or ice. There is no rehab centres for tobacco addicts. One think there should be Government ones for people who want to stop smoking seeing the revenue they collect. Smoking, drinking and secondary smoke cost the nation as a whole in loss productivity, costs on the health dollar, personal cost to family through unnessary loss of life. This cost is far more then the cost of other recreation like sport and out door activities. so it only fair that that these costly recreation should pay for more in taxes.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Smoking is not enjoyable to the smoker.

Speak for yourself. I loved smoking, and I have to admit, I miss it. I quit when my son was born though.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Go ahead, double, triple the price. The yakuza & black marketeers will love it, they'll be selling imported cartons under the table at every izakaya in town. Why should smokers foot the bill for Japan's Olympic incompetence? Strangerland is right, if you punish smokers then why not drinkers, fat people, people with body odor, dog owners, Aston Martins etc?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Stranger - that's a fine line - taxing anything with risk even if only a handful of deaths occur a year against millions.

But many things do attract taxes and the rates will differ enormously country by country. Alcohol is heavily taxed in some and lightly in others. I know that the excise tax on alcohol in Japan brings in billions.

And cars are heavily taxed. On purchase, and any number of local and national govt taxes (road, registeration etc)certainly strain the budget - as does the fuel tax which is an integral part of car tax.

And suggesting taxing anything that kills or engages in non-productive activities like typing these words, because it takes a money-spinner / bread winner out of the equation, I know is your humorous streak coming through so I can enjoy.

Next you'll be suggesting a tax on dying itself. But wait - we already have that - death taxes.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Stranger - that's a fine line - taxing anything with risk even if only a handful of deaths occur a year against millions.

Sugar kills millions per year, as does alcohol. So where exactly is that fine line?

And suggesting taxing anything that kills or engages in non-productive activities like typing these words, because it takes a money-spinner / bread winner out of the equation, I know is your humorous streak coming through so I can enjoy.

Well, I don't know that it's 'haha' funny, more like ironically funny. And I think it illustrates my point - you can't (or at least, really shouldn't) legislate productivity in society. That's where communism fails (and for the record, I'm a fan of the idea of communism, it unfortunately just doesn't work in practice).

Smoking is an easy target, particularly for non-smokers. But society shouldn't be trying to legislate bad habits out of existence. It should only legislate rules around those bad habits, so as not to ensure the bad habits do not overly inconvenience the other members of society. Rules such as no drinking and driving. I'm not even necessarily a fan of a ban on smoking in restaurants - even though I'd love to have no restaurants that allow smoking. But if a restaurant wants to designate itself as a smoking restaurant, and there are people who want to go there, and others who are willing to go there, then I think they should all be able to do that.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Strangerland, you are really insisting on missing the point here. When someone drinks, I do not get drunk sitting next to them. If someone ingests massive amounts of sugar while they walk by me, I do not get fat or get diabetes.

If someone smokes, and I am near them or in the same room, I AM SMOKING. Please stop conflating smoking with other undesirable activities.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

If someone smokes, and I am near them or in the same room, I AM SMOKING. Please stop conflating smoking with other undesirable activities.

So don't go in rooms where people are smoking. I don't go into restaurants that don't have separated smoking areas, you don't have to either.

Now outdoors is a different story - I like it that some wards don't allow smoking outside of designated areas. That's a good thing.

But what does that have to do with doubling or tripling taxes on cigarettes?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

But doubling or tripling the price of cigarettes is not help to quit, it's punitive. actually Australian statistics has shown the price of cigarettes play a large role in making people quit. Smoking rates in Australia have dropped dramatically over the last 20 years. Cigarettes are over $20 a packet now. Smoking rates in poorer asian countries are high as tobacco is very cheap.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

actually Australian statistics has shown the price of cigarettes play a large role in making people quit.

I'm sure it does. That wasn't the point I was making though. I was making the point that it's punitive, because smokers are an easy target. Why not also double or triple the cost of alcohol or sugary foods? People would drink less, and they would eat less sugar too.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

How does one keep a distance from smokers in a highly populated country such as Japan? It's impossible unless one never leaves the home......

2 ( +2 / -0 )

They have smoking areas in many (most?) wards now, and smokers are not supposed to smoke outside them. The government would do well to enforce that, as some smokers are a$$holes.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

They percentage of smoker in Japan is under 10 %

Nope, almost 20%:

The smoking rate for Japanese men stood at 29.7 percent as of May this year, slipping below 30 percent for the first time since the survey began in 1965, Japan Tobacco Inc. said Thursday.

The smoking rate for women rose 0.1 point to 9.7 percent.

The rate for overall Japanese adults dropped 0.6 point to a record low of 19.3 percent, the survey showed.

Link: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/07/28/national/science-health/smoking-rate-japanese-men-falls-30-first-time/

The Government aim of the increasing tax on smoke is to stop people from smoking.

And as I've said, smokers make an easy target. If they are going to be punitive to smokers, they should also heavily tax alcohol and sugar, as both of these also kill significant numbers of people.

You did say your all for being a como.

What's a como?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

A como is a commuist.

I never said I'm all for being a communist.

You can not believe those numbers

Sure I can - they are official numbers, unlike the ones you just made up out of your head.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Stranger - thanks.

Actually my fine line was referring to taxing sky diving, camping etc. Hardly the comprehensive killers we imagine. And I believe I said alcohol is heavily taxed as are cars / driving.

Taxation and egalitarianism have never been bed-mates.

But as a personal put, I'm anti -smoking because of the death and disease it has brought to my extended family. Nothing will change me on that. Also unlike most (not all) vices(?) smoking immediately negatively impacts on others around, whereas those 6 spoons of sugar in your coffee doesn't hit me at all.

Perhaps the answer is as you suggest - smoking only places - where smokers can get their fill and more and bask in the residue.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

But as a personal put, I'm anti -smoking because of the death and disease it has brought to my extended family. Nothing will change me on that.

Don't get me wrong - I'm anti-smoking as well. It's a gross habit, and as much as I miss it, I'm so glad I don't smoke any more. And I hate going into smoky restaurants.

But I'm a firm believer in people making their own decisions. Society shouldn't be making those decisions for them, society should simply provide assistance at making better decisions. Punishing smokers is not the way to go. Providing education about the dangers of smoking, and providing assistance to quit is what society should be doing.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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