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Lately there has been much lively discussion of a proposal by Youhei Sasagawa, president of the Nippon Foundation, suggesting raising the price of cigarettes to 1,000 yen a pack. I think this is a good idea. Members of the bipartisan Diet have come together to form a caucus and are beginning to take action.
While there’s no need to follow the lead of the West in everything we do, they have long held the idea there that having a pack of cigarettes cost around 1,000 yen is common sense. I’m pleased to see that here in Japan we have also finally reached a point where we can perhaps squarely address such issues.
To sum up Sasagawa’s contentions, he is implying that, simply put, a 1,000 yen-a-pack price would boost tax revenues by 9 trillion yen, and that even if this led to one in three smokers quitting we would still be left with estimated gains of 3 trillion yen.
The sole concern of the Diet is also tax yields. With an increase of the consumption tax being a seemingly untouchable issue, perhaps it’s only natural they would turn to other sources of revenue. However it feels odd that the focus of the caucus is entirely on taxes.
I think they need to consider the tobacco issue from an overall perspective. Shouldn’t they be taking a harder look at things like the health of smokers and those inhaling their smoke, as well as the reduction of medical expenses as more people quit smoking?
According to data from the Health Science Council, this drop in the number of smokers will raise the amount of unnecessary “excess medical expenses” to nearly 1.3 trillion yen per year. On top of this there are also estimates that hospital visitations, hospitalizations, and deaths resulting from smoking-related health problems will account for workforce losses equaling nearly 5.8 trillion yen.
Altogether this adds up to more than 7 trillion yen. While there are some objections to how these figures are calculated, regardless the size of the social cost is of a level that can’t be ignored.
While this is certainly something that smokers aren’t going to like, the fact that we can’t get anything done despite having such clear, scientific proof of the harm tobacco inflicts both on those who smoke it and those in the vicinity via second-hand smoke is nothing short of complete political and social negligence.
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