A number of prefectural governments have bowed to pressure from the tobacco industry and abandoned or downsized their antismoking campaigns, a Kyodo News poll showed Saturday.
Of the 27 prefectures that had compiled regional health plans by the end of fiscal 2000, only seven included specific antismoking goals in their schemes.
Under Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry guidelines, specific plans to reduce the use of tobacco are one of nine health-related projects that must be mapped out by prefectural governments in their health plans.
But while the ministry requires local governments to set numerical targets, the requirement that the number of smokers be “halved” by 2010 was removed from the final version of the guidelines because of protests from the tobacco industry, led by Japan Tobacco Inc.
The company, formerly a government affiliate, is the sole domestic tobacco manufacturer.
Aichi Prefecture, one of the 20 prefectures surveyed that opted not to set reduction goals for tobacco use, said it considered JT’s reaction when mapping out its health care plan. A Yamagata Prefecture official said a local cooperative of tobacco sellers asked the government not to set specific numeric targets in its plan.
Bucking the trend of conceding to industry pressure, Saga Prefecture set a goal of reducing the percentage of male smokers from the current 53.3 percent to 45 percent, and reducing female smokers 1.9 percentage points to 7 percent of the prefecture’s adult population.
A public relations official from JT defended the company’s tobacco promotion, saying: “Tobacco is a personal choice and any governments should keep away from control of it.”
“We have not told production and sale cooperatives to do anything special to protest these fixed-figure targets, but we believe our industry is united.”
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