Japan - prime minister calls for tobacco tax increase..

November 25, 2009 - Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama recently told the Diet (the Japanese parliament is called the Diet) that an increase in the tobacco tax should be considered from the viewpoint of improving people's health. He has instructed the government's Tax System Council to study the matter. A tobacco tax increase is long overdue; we hope Mr. Hatoyama's effort will succeed.

Japan's parliament named Yukio Hatoyama prime minister September 16, 2009, as his Democratic party took power for the first time ever with promises to revive the slumping economy and make Tokyo a more equal partner in its alliance with the United States. (Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama Takes Office, Names Cabinet In Japan, Malcolm Foster, huffingtonpost.com, 9/16/2009.)

Directly related news brief: Japan - new government administration considering raising cigarette taxes..

The World Health Organization says, "Tobacco is the single largest preventable cause of cancer in the world today. It causes 80 to 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths, and nearly one-third of all cancer deaths in developing countries." Smoking not only accounts for about one-third of all cancer cases but also increases the incidence of heart diseases and cerebral infarction. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), effective February 2005, calls on its 164 signatories to raise taxes on tobacco products as a way of reducing tobacco consumption.

Cigarettes in Japan are much cheaper than in other parts of the developed world. For example, Japan imposes a tobacco tax of ¥174 (yen - USD 1.99) on a 20-cigarette pack, compared with an equivalent tax of ¥400 (USD 4.56) to ¥500 (USD 5.70) imposed in Europe and North America.

Every year since 2006 the health ministry has proposed raising the tobacco tax. But the Liberal Democratic Party's Research Commission on the Tax System quashed the proposal because it feared that an increase would be unpopular with voters and negatively impact tax revenue. The change in government, however, has breathed new life into the drive to increase the tax. (For example: Japan shelves tobacco tax hike for 2009..)

A health ministry survey shows that 36.8 percent of men and 9.1 percent of women regularly smoked in 2008. The rate for men was the lowest since the survey began in 1981. In five years, the overall rate went down by 5.9 points to 21.8 percent, while the rate for men dipped 10 points. In addition, of those surveyed, 28.5 percent of male smokers and 37.4 percent of female smokers indicated that they want to quit smoking.

A steep cigarette tax hike would induce many to quit smoking. The revenue should be used to promote measures to help smokers kick the habit, improve medical services and assist those among the nation's 12,000 tobacco farmers who would like to switch crops. The government could also discourage use of tobacco by banning smoking in public places nationwide, including restaurants.

EDITORIAL Increase the tobacco tax
, The Japan Times, 11/23/2009.

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Japan - new government administration considering raising cigarette taxes..;
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Japan - convenience store sales fell in June 2009..;
Japan - tobacco control people upset with smoker-only cafes..;
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Japan shelves tobacco tax hike for 2009..;
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Japan Tobacco Starts Petition To Fight Tax Increase..;
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