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Joseph Jaworski, in his Oct. 2 letter “Downside of higher tobacco tax”, states that, “In a free society, is being unhealthy a legitimate life choice? For a country with socialized health care, critics would say ‘no.’ Yet, where is the limit? Virtually anything can be consumed in an unhealthy way. Why is tobacco unique?”

Tobacco is not unique. There is no completely “free” society, every society must put limitations on individual behavior when the good of society necessitates limiting that behavior. Driving restrictions, drinking restrictions, restrictions on drug use — these are all examples.

Tobacco consumption should be restricted because it affects not only the health of the smoker but the people subjected to the smoke. Yes, socialized health care warrants restrictions on tobacco usage because of the higher medical costs paid by the taxpayers. An equally important consideration is the millions of people who object to having meals ruined by smoke in restaurants, breathing in tobacco smoke in public places, or having their children develop respiratory ailments because of secondhand smoke. The tobacco user is choosing to be unhealthy but the choice directly affects the well-being and comfort of those nearby. Japan lags behind the rest of the industrialized countries, and indeed, many undeveloped countries, in implementing strict restrictions on smoking in public.

I agree with Jaworski that the Japanese government must divest all its shares of Japan Tobacco. High tax on cigarettes is warranted to pay the higher costs on society resulting from tobacco usage. If smoking rates are higher amongst the poor, higher taxes will provide a greater incentive to quit.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

susan kawada

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