Proposed tax hike aims to reduce the number of people lighting up before the Olympic flame comes to Tokyo.

Japan has a pretty intense mix of emotions about Tokyo serving as host of the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. On one hand, as a country that prides itself on hospitality and is always pleased to see people of other nations taking an interest in its traditions and accomplishments, many locals are excited about hosting the Games.

But on the other hand, the surge in visitors and attention from abroad that Japan will be experiencing has some worried about how certain social norms of the geographically, and at times socially, insular nation will be perceived by the international community. For example, Japanese smoking restrictions are much laxer than those in many similarly developed countries.

With Japanese public opinion also gradually becoming more critical of second-hand smoke, some legislators are arguing that now is as good a time as any to begin transitioning to stricter regulations and anti-smoking measures. The Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare is contemplating an indoor smoking ban that would prohibit lighting up in restaurants and bars, and now Akiko Santo, a member of the House of Councilors and the head of its Second-hand Smoke Prevention Committee, is pushing for another dramatic change.

On October 25, Santo formally suggested to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga that the government look into the ramifications of significantly raising tobacco taxes, to the extent that a single pack of cigarettes would cost more than 1,000 yen (US$9.70). Should such a move be carried out, the retail price of an average pack would be more than double what it is now. While no official legislation has been introduced for debate, Santo seems determined to implement higher taxes on cigarettes by 2020, saying “The Olympics are coming up, and the timing is right.”

Source: Jiji
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