Japan Tobacco Inc. announced Friday it will close six domestic cigarette factories at the end of March 2005 as part of a restructuring plan unveiled in August.

The six plants include one in Kagoshima Prefecture that began operations in 1904. Together, they produced 48 billion cigarettes in fiscal 2002, company officials said.

Japan Tobacco closed eight plants in July 2002. As of April 1, 2005, the firm will be left with 10 factories.

In its midterm management plan announced last month, the company said it would reduce its workforce by 20 percent through an early retirement program and other measures.

The company expects the volume of its cigarette sales in fiscal 2005 to total 179 billion, down 50 billion from fiscal 2002, due to a recent tax hike, growing awareness of the harmful effects of smoking, and the termination of licensing agreements with Philip Morris to manufacture and sell Marlboro brand cigarettes in Japan.

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