Wednesday, May 16, 2001

Smoking Kills

The EU today announced a regulation for tobacco companies, stating that the warnings, "Smoking kills", "Smokers will die early", be printed clearly on all cigarette packaging beginning the end of September 2001. Furthermore, starting in September 2003, the use of brand names with wording such as "Mild" or "Light" will be prohibited.

For those, including me, who dislike smoking, this is a welcome move. I would like to see similar measures taken in Japan as soon as possible. However, JT (Japan Tobacco), which makes a great profit from the "Mild Seven" brand, has issued a statement saying that the use of the terms "Mild" and/or "Light" is a trademark right and they "will be taking appropriate measures, including litigation" to contest this decision. From the standpoint of business ethics, I think this is a shameful attitude.

Presently in Japan, the greatest cause for unnatural deaths is lung cancer. Up until a few years ago, the leading cause was stomach cancer, but, as the Boomer Generation reaches their 50's, the number of lung cancer-related deaths has increased dramatically. Behind these deaths is the sad fact that the cigarette-loving Boomers have not been able to give up smoking. In a symposium, "Cancer Prevention in the 21 Century--Learning from the Decline in the U.S.", held on April 27th of this year, the President of the Japan Medical Association, Dr. Eikou Tsuboi, emphasizing that the first and foremost cause for lung cancer is smoking during adolescence, stated that, "Lung cancer is 30 times more prevalent in those who began smoking at age 15 or under than those who did not." "Furthermore, results of a study show that, the lung cancer death rate is 4.5 times higher in smokers than in non-smokers, 32.5 times higher in larynx cancer cases, 2.9 times higher in cancer of the mouth, and 2.2 times higher in cases of cancer of the esophagus."

At Seicho-No-Ie International Headquarters, smoking and non-smoking areas were established some time ago, but it's only recently--this year in fact--that general "No Smoking" regulations have been implemented at my Grand Seminars. With this decision by the EU, Japan should change the vague packaging labels that state, "Smoking may be damaging to your health". In the United States there are warnings on cigarette packs that clearly state, "Surgeon General's Warning: Smoking By Pregnant Women May Result in Fetal Injury, Premature Birth, And Low Birth Weight", or "Surgeon General's Warning: Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and may complicate pregnancy." Some states even prohibit outdoor advertising for cigarettes within a certain distance from schools. Increasing the cost of cigarettes may be another deterrent. In Canada and/or Northern Europe, a pack of cigarettes costs anywhere from the equivalent of 500 yen to as much as 700 yen. If we, too, (in Japan) take similar measures, as well as outlaw cigarette vending machines, we should, at the very least, be able to significantly reduce the number of middle school-age smokers.

- MT

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