• Kyodo

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A health campaign launched by the city of Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, to turn the city into a no-smoking zone in 10 years has incited the tobacco industry to fight back.

“We cannot accept something that completely negates smoking,” Japan Tobacco Inc., the world’s third-largest tobacco company, said in a written statement submitted Wednesday. It demanded that the city scrap the campaign.

Itami set the deadline for the zero-smoking target at fiscal 2010 as part of a health program drawn up this spring.

The program, compiled on the basis of the central government’s “Health Japan 21” plan, lists 70 numerical health targets, including for alcohol consumption, that the citizens of Itami were urged to achieve over a 10-year period.

“We cannot affix a numerical target for smoking, which we know is linked to lung cancer and lifestyle diseases that affect the respiratory system,” an official of the city’s public welfare department said in explaining the plan.

In response, JT said, “Tobacco is a long-established recreational product for adults, and whether to smoke or not should be left to individual judgment.”

JT said the administration has no business fixing numerical targets that would have untold consequences for tobacco retailers and farmers.

The former Health and Welfare Ministry formulated the “Health Japan 21” initiative last year, introducing numerical targets for the first time. The ministry initially proposed halving the adult smoking rate over 10 years, but gave up the plan amid protests from the tobacco industry and its political allies.

Local authorities across the country are drawing up health plans based on the blueprint drawn by the ministry, which merged with the Labor Ministry in January to form the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

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