Cigarettes can be purchased at tobacconists, convenience stores and vending machines, although their purchase in vending machines is only possible with a so-called TASPO card, a photo ID that verifies the age of the holder. The current prevalence of smoking in the general population of Japan is declining. Smoking prevalence was 32% in 2000 and fell to 21% in 2015, with a further decline to about 16% in 2025. Among males, prevalence increased from 51% in 2000 to 33% in 2015, before decreasing to 24% in 2025. For women, the lower prevalence fell from 13% in 2000 to 10% in 2015 and is expected to decline further to about 8% by 2025. In its 2nd edition 2018 report, WHO published estimates of the trend in smoking prevalence, showing a slight deviation in smoking prevalence from WHO country profiles. Data for estimates are from WHO databases. Trend lines are projections, not predictions of future success. A projection indicates a likely outcome if the country maintains its tobacco control efforts at the same level at which it has implemented them to date. Therefore, the impact of recent interventions may change the expected endpoint presented in the projection. Although the estimation methods used in the first and second editions of the WHO report are the same, the volume of data available for the second edition is larger, i.e. 200 additional national surveys.
The results presented are therefore more robust. Until 1985, the tobacco industry was a state monopoly; The Japanese government is still involved in the industry through the Ministry of Finance, which owns only a third of Japan Tobacco`s current inventory after a sell-off in March 2013, and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, which is active in public health and other tobacco control policies.  Smoking is practiced by about 20,000,000 people in Japan, and the country is one of the largest tobacco markets in the world, although tobacco consumption has declined in recent years.  The country`s legal measures were reviewed by our legal staff in consultation with lawyers or tobacco control experts. It is quite obvious that the convoluted state of tobacco regulation in Japan is directly related to the fact that the government as a whole and its individual members who own a steak in JT have a vested interest not only in the survival, but also in the prosperity of the tobacco industry. This asset proved strangely beneficial, as the government sold large portions of JT`s shares on more than one occasion to fund national reconstruction efforts such as the reconstruction in northeastern Japan after the Tohoku earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a move that was both encouraging and confusing. Currently, the Ministry of Finance owns just over 33% of JT. The tobacco lobby`s clever argument was that smokers are not allowed to go out to smoke a cigarette because regulations enacted in the early 2000s prohibited smoking in outdoor public places. This meant that smokers had no choice but to smoke indoors in designated smoking areas. In Japan, ultra-nicotine cigarette brands with ventilation holes on cigarette filters have been widely marketed to smokers.
The use of these brands of cigarettes leads to compensatory smoking. Brands of menthol cigarettes that have a refreshing and anesthetic effect are also sold. In 2013, smokeless tobacco products similar to Swedish snus, the sale of which is banned in the European Union with the exception of Sweden, were placed on the Japanese market. These tobacco products have « toxicity », have a « ventilation filter », are « attractive » and promote « addiction ». Tobacco smoke and smokeless tobacco are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in « Group 1: Carcinogenic to humans ». Articles 9 and 10 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) regulate the content of tobacco products and the disclosure of tobacco products. The implementation of some other articles has progressed gradually in Japan. However, Articles 9 and 10 are out of time. Japanese governmental authorities are urged to implement articles 9 and 10 without delay. Tobacco has been around in Japan since the 16th century, no one really knows how it got here, but needless to say, it has grown. In 1898, the government introduced a tax on leaves and the sale of tobacco became a nationalized monopoly. During the rationing periods of World War II, the government allowed 3 cigarettes per man per day, and this rationing continued until 1950.
The abolition of rations increased the number of male smokers in Japan to 83.7% in 1966. Smoking was a luxury for this generation in Japan and a way of being social, so all spaces – offices, apartments, cafes, restaurants, trains and theatres – were smoke-friendly, needless to say, the government`s self-interest in the wealth of the tobacco industry had something to do with the fact that smoking was completely unregulated. In 1985, the monopoly ended and Japan Tobacco Inc. (known as JT) was formed, and although it was a privately held publicly traded company, it was still owned by the Ministry of Finance. The government slowly sold shares of JT and by 2003 they had sold a third of the company and 50% in 2013. However, by law, the Department of Finance is required to own at least one-third of the CT. The legislation aims to reduce the risk of second-hand smoke ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics amid international calls for smoke-free games. But ruling party lawmakers, with close ties to the tobacco and restaurant industries, opted for a watered-down version. In Japan, it is illegal to sell e-cigarettes containing nicotine because they are classified as drugs and have not yet been approved in this way. However, Japanese vapers can import up to a month of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes for personal use.
Nicotine-free e-cigarettes are not regulated. There are restrictions on indoor vaping in public places. The current prevalence of e-cigarette vaping among adults is 1.9%. 11.4% of the population has already tried vaping e-cigarettes. The « Smoking Ban for Minors » law, enacted in Japan in 1990, states that a parent who tacitly allows their child to smoke and those who sell tobacco to minors know that it is for their own use will be punished. However, retailers are unlikely to determine the age of buyers who appear to be minors and whether the tobacco is for personal use. The purchase of tobacco by minors has been tested in tobacco shops in Tokyo and the city of Oiya, a suburb near Tokyo. A 17-year-old high school girl in Omiya and a 14-year-old schoolboy in Tokyo, both in school uniform, were asked to buy a pack of Mild Seven, one of the most popular brands of household cigarettes in Japan.
Both students were asked to give their ages honestly when asked, and when asked, they were asked to say they would smoke it themselves. In Omyya, among 18 business attempts, the student was refused tobacco in one store because he was a minor. In one store, the student was asked to buy tobacco from a vending machine. In Tokyo, the student was able to buy tobacco in 19 of the 20 shops tried without any problems. In the only store where he was having problems, he was asked to buy it from the vending machine owned by the store. Although the ban on the sale of tobacco to minors is important, it is clear that such a ban is in no way effective without a system of strict enforcement by both the health sector and the police. In 2020, Japan produced 13,748 tons of tobacco, a decline of 82.9% since 1990. In Japan, heated tobacco products are regulated under the amended Health Promotion Law.
The amendments to the Act define smoking as the smoke or vapour of burnt or heated tobacco and, therefore, heated tobacco products are subject to the smoking prohibition set out in the amendments. Smoking is completely forbidden in schools, hospitals, children`s institutions, government institutions, private cars and airplanes. In practice, however, the use of heated tobacco products is allowed in other public places such as restaurants, passenger ships and trains. The tax on heated tobacco products is currently at the same level as pipe tobacco under the Tobacco Tax Act, and sales to minors are restricted under section 5 of the No Smoking Act for minors.