Your 2019 Resolution Coming True: Smokers in Japan are rapidly diminishing

Whichever izakaya you stumble into, you’ll inevitably run into a group of businessmen cheering and having a good ol’ time after work. On top of great banter, izakaya’s (bar) is the place to be if you want to find some of the best Japanese food you’ll ever have the pleasure of eating– but with every dish you try, there will always be a subtle hint of cigarette smoke garnish.

(Image source: The New York Times)

In 1989, the average smoking rate between men and women showed that a hefty 36% of the general public enjoyed a nice durrie, but in 2018, this percentage was halved at 17.9%. Men, in particular, have seen the sharpest change, with 61.1% of the male population in 1989 smoking, to 27.8% in 2018, showing the lowest result in 65 years.

Japan Tobacco Inc. (JT) analyzed that the decrease of smokers is as a result of growing concerns about health in an aging society, strengthening of smoking regulations, and tax increases.

(Image source: ABC News Australia)

With the 2020 Olympics in future sight, the fight for tighter smoking laws against restaurant owners, health experts, politicians, and the general public has started. With public and transportation facilities changing its rules little by little for tobacco control, offices and restaurants have now taken charge to restrict customers and employees by enforcing smoking penalty fines in certain areas.

As of May 2017, the average smoking age of men in Japan showed that 36.7% of men aged between 40-49 years old ranked the highest among other age groups, with the second place category aged between 50-59 years old.

(Image source: Japan Times)

So how does this compare? The common misconception against non-smokers is the mysterious case of the Japanese population: how are Japanese people able to smoke more but have lower rates of lung cancer than their smoker friends in the United States and Europe?

To many, this smoking paradox is assumed in Asia, where the majority of Korean people were 4.0 to 4.6 times more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers, 3.7 to 5.1 for Japanese people and 2.4 to 6.5 for Chinese people, according to a 2016 study of lung cancer. In comparison to the United States, this could potentially be the result of a number of reasons– a lower level of cancer-causing ingredients or high efficiency of filters in Japanese cigarettes, a lower fat diet, or simply, genetics. Either way, you don’t want to risk your chances, so we say ease yourself off and really try to accomplish your “be healthy” resolution for this new year.

(Sources: ABC Net Australia, News Live Door)

Elise Meng