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The newly formed and enormously popular Koizumi Cabinet picked up another accolade Monday when a group of antismoking advocates noticed it contains only one smoker, the least number of any recent Cabinet.

“In the past there were an average of four to five smokers in one Cabinet, with up to seven or eight smokers at times,” said Bungaku Watanabe, head of the Tokyo-based Tobacco Problems Information Center.

Watanabe identified Defense Agency Director General Gen Nakatani as the sole smoker in the 18-member lineup of government leaders.

“He (Nakatani) is not a heavy smoker,” Nakatani’s secretary Ryugo Kuwana told The Japan Times on Monday. “He only smokes around five or six cigarettes a day merely to pass the time. Some days he doesn’t even smoke at all.”

The most smoker-populated Cabinet in recent memory was the one formed by LDP heavyweight Ryutaro Hashimoto in January 1996. That lineup had no less than a dozen tobacco addicts, including Hashimoto himself, who is known as a heavy smoker, Watanabe said.

Even given the lower than average percentage of male smokers in the Diet — roughly 34 percent compared with about 52 percent for the general population — this is the first time the percentage of Cabinet members who smoke has dipped into the single digits, Watanabe said.

Watanabe attributes the drop in part to the record number of female Cabinet members: the Koizumi Cabinet has five women.

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