Japan’s smoking rate in 2014 fell below 20 percent for the first time since such statistics began being compiled in 1965, Japan Tobacco Inc. said on Wednesday.
The rate dropped for the 19th consecutive year to stand at 19.7 percent, down 1.2 points from the previous year.
The decline reflected growing health consciousness and a shift away from cigarettes accelerated by the April consumption tax hike from 5 percent to 8 percent.
The rate for men fell 1.9 points to 30.3 percent. For women, the rate dropped 0.7 point to 9.8 percent, slipping below 10 percent for the first time.
The estimated number of smokers stood at 20.59 million, down 1.36 million.
According to Japan Tobacco, the smoking rate peaked at 49.4 percent in 1966, when the rate stood at 83.7 percent for men and 18.0 percent for women, the highest figures on record.
The latest survey, conducted in May, covered about 32,000 people aged 20 or older. Valid responses were received from 60.5 percent.