Friday, November 30, 2001

Let's Stop Smoking

The third round of discussions, being held in Geneva, amongst nations that are, for the first time in history, trying to reach an agreement regarding health issues through the "Framework for the Cigarette Restraint Regulations Pact", ended on November 28th. It was reported in the evening edition of yesterday's Asahi Shimbun that the 191 countries of the World Health Organization (WHO) met to sort the points in question, and it seems that opinions are intensifying to go in the general direction of banning of cigarette vending machines. Japan, where influence of the "cigarette promoting forces" have been strong and, therefore, the vending machines are virtually unregulated, are trying to keep this to "regulating", rather than "prohibiting" the vending machines. But, since the United States, too, supported the "ban", based on some conditions, these forces seem to be in a difficult situation. Cigarette advertising in Japan is generally given free reign, but, under this agreement, it looks like it will either be banned, or subject to "appropriate regulations." It seems that Japan is behind when it comes to awareness in this area.

Amidst this, it is only natural but, at the same time, pleasurable that the Japan Medical Association has officially acknowleded that "Cigarette smoking is harmful." We should also give credit to the fact that an increase in tobacco tax is being considered. According to one report, revenue from cigarette taxes is approximately trillion yen annually, while overall losses by society, which include cigarette smoking-related medical expenses, is about 3.2 trillion yen. In other words, although some companies may profit by cigarette sales, the people of Japan as a whole are suffering losses. Non-smoking areas in public places are becoming more predominant. For example, three-quarters of all trains are non-smoking and airplanes are all non-smoking. Despite this, though, I see people who've been affected by this, light up a cigarette as soon as they step out of the train stations and go walking down the street, a cigarette hanging from their mouths. And, of course, they throw the cigarette butts on the streets, ignoring the Tokyo, Shibuya Ward "Regulation Against Littering""

I started smoking while I was in college. I'm not sure what actually got me started? Probably because people around me were doing it, so I thought, "Oh, yeah, right," and began smoking "Seven Star." That's the brand that was popular at the time, and I myself liked the design. Looking back at this now, though, I think there's a problem with this "smoking for some reason or another" attitude. This doesn't mean that there is no reason, but, rather, that one isn't conscious of a reason. Most all of the actors I liked at the time all smoked in their movies. The young, naive subconscious in me thought that was really "cool." I also had that old conception that "Cigarettes are proof of adulthood." In novels, comics, and in advertising, there were always scenes of people "stylishly" throwing the cigarettes butts away. Moreover, there was the incorrect information circulating amongst young people that, "Smoking prevents weight gain." In other words, you began smoking in order to show off and from sheer ignorance, which is probably the case with young people these days, too.

So, adults today must teach young people what they know. We shouldn't have that, "I did it, too, so it's okay" attitude. Only adults can say, "I did it and it was wrong, so you shouldn't." Along this line, I think the Board of Education in Wakayama Prefecture made a wise decision when they decided to make the grounds on all elementary, junior and senior high schools non-smoking areas. President of the Board of Education, Mr. Youji Koseki, said, "Smoking amongst minors has gone from starting at junior high age to the elementary school age children. Even with the traditional separation of smokers and non-smokers you cannot avoid second-hand smoke. Smoking prevention is the first and most important fact of education, with the effects on education being tremendous." You don't have to be an educator to send out the same message. The youngest of the former Beatles, George Harrison, died on November 29th of cancer of the larynx--A much too early death at the age of 58. He was a heavy smoker.

- MT

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