Tobacco industry plans campaign against tax hike

Japan Tobacco Inc. and three industry groups said Friday they will launch a campaign on Tuesday against the government’s plans to raise the tobacco tax.

JT, the Tobacco Institute of Japan, the Japan Tobacco Growers Association and the Japan Tobacconist Federation said they will collect protest signatures on a Web site and at some 200,000 tobacco stores nationwide.

In April, Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa voiced willingness to hike taxes on tobacco products at the outset of fiscal 2003.

The ministry had originally sought to raise the tax within the current fiscal year but was forced to abandon this plan in the face of opposition from smokers and the tobacco industry.

The government’s Tax Commission is also studying tax-hike proposals.

JT and the industry groups said their appeal to the public will be based on the fact that national and local government taxes account for roughly 60 percent of the price of tobacco.