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Smoking, now too uncool for school

by Minoru Matsutani

Staff Writer

Kitsuen (喫煙, smoking) could become an obsolete habit in Japan in the near future, as youngsters apparently now consider smoking dasai (ダサい, uncool).

A recent survey by the monkashō (文科省, an abbreviation of monbukagakushō, or the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) shows that only 9 percent of kōsan danshi (高3男子, high school senior boys) want to smoke in the future.

The survey was conducted in December last year and was the third such survey, after 2000 and 2006. In 2000 the percentage was 30 percent, and 17 percent in 2006. The percentage of girls who expressed a desire to smoke was 11.5 percent in 2000, 7.5 percent in 2006 and 3.4 percent in 2012.

The survey also shows that the number of those who agreed to the statement “sū hito wo kakkoii to omou” (「吸う人をかっこいいと思う」”I think smokers are cool”) was the lowest ever.

A similar survey was carried out in February 2011 by the Japanese unit of Pfizer, a major pharmaceutical company. In that survey, Pfizer asked men and women in their 20s to 40s questions regarding their view on dating smokers.

The results showed that 62 percent of men and 43 percent of women surveyed (both smokers and nonsmokers) would prefer a nonsmoking partner. For nonsmokers alone the figures were 84 percent of the men and 74 percent of the women.

The survey also shows 77.3 percent of nonsmoking men and 72 percent of nonsmoking women have a negatibu na inshō (ネガティブな印象, negative impression) of people of the opposite sex who smoke: Phrases used include, tabako kusai (タバコ臭い, stinking of cigarettes), fukenkō (不健康, unhealthy), kakko warui (かっこ悪い, uncool) and jidai okure (時代遅れ, out of date). It also showed only 5.7 percent of nonsmoking men and 8.0 percent of nonsmoking women have a pojitibu na inshō (ポジティブな印象, positive impression) of people of the opposite sex who smoke, with terms such as kakkoii (かっこいい, cool), otonappoi (大人っぽい, adultlike) and jiritsu shiteiru (自立している, independent) being used.

If the trend against smoking continues, kitsuensha (喫煙者, smokers) will become near-extinct. And the opinion of ken’ensha (嫌煙者, people who hate smoking) on the Internet seems to suggest that would be a welcome thing.

A recent Internet posting on a 2-channel forum on the subject of smoking said, “Tabako sutte kakkoiitte iwareru jidai wa tokkuni owattandayo” (「タバコ吸ってかっこいいって言われる時代はとっくに終わったんだよ」 “The time that smokers were considered cool is long behind us”).

It’s no secret that society has become much harsher for smokers. There are many kitsuen shitei basho (喫煙指定場所, designated smoking areas) on Tokyo streets, discouraging people from smoking elsewhere. Some municipalities even outlaw aruki tabako (歩きタバコ, smoking while walking on a street).

A page regarding smoking on the Naver Matome Internet curation platform shows many people complain online about smoking while walking.

A posting on the website displayed a photo of a burn on the ear of a young child, with the title of “Isshō nokoru yakedo no ato” (「一生残る火傷の跡」”A burn scar that will last for life”).

An argument that is often used by opponents of smoking while walking is that when smokers hold cigarettes with their arm hanging down it is kodomo no mesen (子供の目線, the same height as a child’s eyes), and is therefore very dangerous.

In a recent feud between nonsmokers and smokers, Nihon Kin’en Gakkai (日本禁煙学会, Japan Society for Tobacco Control) and Kitsuen Bunka Kenkyuukai (喫煙文化研究会, Society to Research Smoking Culture) voiced their opinion over what the former calls excessive smoking scenes in director Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film “Kaze Tachinu” (「風立ちぬ」, “The Wind Rises”).

The film is about Japan in early 20th century and its theme is that war is cruel and human life is important. But the Japan Society for Tobacco Control released a statement complaining the film has a number of scenes of smoking.

The society singled out a problematic scene of a man smoking while holding his wife who is ill with haikekkaku (肺結核, lung tuberculosis).

Naze kono bamen de tabako ga tsukawarenakute wa naranakatta no deshōka” 「なぜこの場面でタバコが使われなくてはならなかったのでしょうか」 “Why must a cigarette be used in this scene?”), the society asked in the statement.

It also pointed out that a scene of a student asking his friend for a cigarette may miseinensha no kitsuen wo jochō suru (未成年者の喫煙を助長する, encourage minors to smoke) and may be a violation of the law banning minors’ smoking.

Overall, the Society for Tobacco Control suggests the movie violates Article 13 of tabako no kisei ni kansuru sekaihokenkikan wakugumi jōyaku (タバコの規制に関する世界保健機関枠組条約, WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control), which prohibits tobacco advertisements.

In response to the criticism, the Society to Research Smoking Culture said Japan in the 1920s and ’30s, when the movie is set, had many smokers, as data in 1950 showed 84.5 percent of men smoked: Therefore, smoking scenes are kiwamete ippanteki na byōsha (極めて一般的な描写, extremely normal expression).

Any complaints are unlikely to make a difference, however, as the movie is already a hit in theaters — and as youngsters these days say, smoking is dasai.

  • Sanjeevini Pertiwi

    This is awesome! Though it would be better if these youngsters think that smoking is ‘unhealthy’ rather than ‘dasai’. If the trends change yet again and smoking becomes ‘cool’, then it’s going to be really bad news, yea?

    • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

      Japan rejecting social engineering and public shaming, and instead focusing on reality first?

      Well, we all have dreams.

  • Anatole

    Unfortunately, Russia lags behind Japan and many other countries in anti-smoking campaign and laws restricting this harmful habit. Many young women smoke even while walking with their children on streets of Moscow and other cities.

  • Zenigata

    I came to Japan for the first time in the early 1980s, and I still vividly remember how shocked I was by the disgusting smell of ashtrays with water on their bottom filled with cigarette butts, which were almost everywhere back then.

    I also remember signs on train station platform forbidding smokers to light up during peak hours not because of health concerns but allegedly to avoid burning holes in the clothes (or on the skin) of other people in the crowd.

    I left Japan five years ago, and I’m glad to see that they’re finally coming to terms with their smoking problem. Better late than never…