As the possibility of a general election sometime in the near future is making politicians hesitate to openly advocate a sharp rise in the consumption tax, the idea of hiking the tobacco tax has suddenly gained attention as an alternative way to cover ballooning social security costs in the rapidly aging society.

After Nippon Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa sparked the debate on a possible tobacco tax hike in March by proposing that cigarette prices be more than tripled to ¥1,000 per pack, about 50 lawmakers formed a cross-party group in June to study the idea.

However, various estimates presented by economists and academics, as well as the findings of opinion polls, suggest both major rises and falls in tobacco tax revenues, casting doubt over the actual effects of a tax increase.