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Japan: Government Aims for 12% Smoking Rate
Source: yomiuri.co.jp
Source Date: Sunday, June 10, 2012
Focus: Knowledge Management in Government
Country: Japan
Created: Jun 12, 2012

The government has approved a 12 percent target rate for smoking among adults, representing the first numerical goal to be included in its basic plans to fight cancer and drawing praise from activists battling the effects of secondhand smoke.

The plans were approved at a Cabinet meeting Friday.

A 57-year-old widow in Yamato, Kanagawa Prefecture, still regrets not stopping her husband from working at a company with a number of smokers.

"I didn't know passive smoking was harmful. I wish I'd stopped [my husband] from doing that job and made him change his working environment," she said.

Her husband was not a smoker but was exposed to secondhand smoke for many years at a printing firm. He was diagnosed with lung cancer and died two years ago at the age of 56.

The woman has filed a lawsuit seeking workman's compensation, saying her husband's death was caused by passive smoking in his workplace.

"It's good the plans include a specific numerical target," said lawyer Mitsuki Okamoto, a board member of the Japan Society for Tobacco Control, who is representing the woman. Okamoto said proper measures have not been implemented yet for victims of passive smoking.

"The government must work to prevent passive smoking and help victims," he said.

Repeated attempts in the past to adopt a numerical target for the smoking rate had to be abandoned.

An official at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said, "We used to use the phrase 'halving the smoking rate.' It was opposed on the grounds that it inhibits personal choice."

"The assertion, 'We'll support people who want to quit smoking,' was accepted by many," the official said regarding the inclusion of a numerical target.

People taking care of children also expressed relief.

"We often see parents smoking near children," said Masako Ito, 66, a representative of Kosodate Oen Network Doremi, an incorporated nonprofit organization based in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, that runs day care centers.

"If the smoking rate falls, I'm sure the risk of passive smoking for children will be reduced," Ito said.
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