Subject: [cwj 91] Japan--a smokers' paradise under siege
From: Corporate Watch in Japanese <>
Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2000 13:58:41 -0700
Seq: 91

For more information on the global campaign against tobacco, check out

September 1, 2000

Japan--a smokers' paradise under siege 

Yoshihiko Tamura Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer 

The World Health Organization is soon to begin drafting a proposed convention
on tobacco control, with the aim of cutting down on global cigarette
consumption and stemming the rising death toll related to such consumption. 

Japan, seen as lagging behind other industrially developed nations in terms of
health awareness about cigarette consumption, will be expected to come up with
a reasonable response to uphold the treaty. 

When WHO Director Gro Harlem Brundtland made a strong argument for the
banning of smoking at a world antismoking conference held in Chicago in
August, government officials, researchers and civil activists who had gathered
from 132 countries applauded in support. 

Brundtland, a former Norwegian prime minister, pointed out that millions of
could be saved by restricting cigarette consumption, stressing that the
of the antitobacco treaty, as with the ban on antipersonnel land mines, was to
stop the loss of human life. 

A WHO report on the negative effects--including lung cancer--of cigarette
smoking on human health was first issued more than 30 years ago. Since 1970,
the organization has called on countries to restrict tobacco smoking. Its
recommendation to restrict smoking has had some success in industrially
advanced countries. In the United States, for example, adult male smoking has
declined to less than 30 percent and the number of lung cancer deaths has also

The change in the social climate among industrialized nations with respect to
smoking has caused tobacco companies to redouble their sales efforts in
developing countries, most notably in Southeast Asia. 

WHO, which estimated that 1998 saw 4 million smoking-related deaths, is
predicting a significant increase in that number to 10 million by 2030.
predict that 70 percent of such deaths will be in developing countries. As WHO
sees the antismoking campaign as a global issue with concerted efforts to be
made by individual nations, it has cranked up its strategy to produce an
international treaty that binds signatory nations, rather than being
content to issue

Governments will begin to discuss the Convention--which won the support of
192 countries at WHO's general assembly in May last year--in October. Its
adoption is scheduled for the organization's general assembly in 2003.
Items to
be discussed include taxation and sales, restrictions on advertising,
health warnings, banning smoking by minors, smuggling, restricting the amount
of nicotine used in cigarettes and addiction treatment. 

The treaty will consist of a text stating its ideals and a protocol
specific regulations. How detailed the text will be will depend on upcoming

More than 50 percent of Japanese adult males smoke--an extremely high figure
compared to their counterparts in all other industrialized nations. The
unrestricted placement of vending machines by tobacco companies is thought to
encourage smoking by minors. In addition, there are no strict regulations on
cigarette advertising or health warnings. 

Cigarettes are still considered a luxury item in Japan, and the nation's
of the harmful product could be regarded as out of step with industrialized

With the purchase last spring of RJR Nabisco' international tobacco
division by
Japan Tobacco Inc., the monopoly whose major shareholder is the Finance
Ministry, Japan has become home to the third-largest multinational
corporation in
tobacco sales. 

Yumiko Mochizuki, a leading researcher at the Health and Welfare Ministry's
Institute of Public Health, points out that Japan is seen as a rogue nation
in terms
of tobacco smoking. "Japan's active compliance with the international
treaty (on
antismoking) should function to support developing countries," Mochizuki

The Japanese government agreed to the drafting of the antismoking convention
at WHO's general assembly last year. While restrictions on advertising and the
enforcement of health warning issues would require some changes in domestic
legal codes, such factors should not hinder the government from taking part in
the global movement.
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Transnational Resource and Action Center (TRAC)
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