Japan's smoking rate declines

Japan's smoking rate declined for a 10th-straight year to a new low of 29.2 percent amid growing health awareness and tightened regulations on smoking in public, according to a survey by Japan Tobacco Inc., the country's largest tobacco maker.

While the rate among Japanese men declined to 45.8 percent from 44.7 percent a year ago, the rate among women rose to 13.8 percent from 13.2 percent, according to the survey, which was released Tuesday. The overall smoking rate fell to 29.2 percent from 29.4 percent a year ago and has steadily declined since 1996, according to Tokyo-based Japan Tobacco.

Smoking in Japan has fallen sharply from its peak in 1966, when 49.4 percent of adults, and 83.7 percent of men, were smokers. Among regular smokers, the daily average for men was 22.3 cigarettes a day and 16 for women. In the past decade, restaurants have begun offering no-smoking sections and train platforms have set up designated smoking areas. Public facilities and hospitals are now smoke-free and local officials in Tokyo fine anyone who smokes in certain parts of the city. Tsuyoshi Miyashita, spokesman for Japan Tobacco, said that the smoking rate declined as more people became aware of smoking hazards, adding that the figure is expected to continue falling. He said that smokers tend to quit as they reach retirement age. "There are many people who quit smoking once they retire and start taking it easy," he said, reports the AP. I.L.

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