“World No Tobacco Day”

May 31st was the 23rd annual “World No Tobacco Day.”

Started by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1987, World No Tobacco Day draws global attention to tobacco use and the health hazards associated with it.  The day is also intended to encourage people to abstain from all forms of tobacco use and consumption.

This year’s theme is “gender and tobacco, with an emphasis on marketing to women.”  According to the WHO, although women make up only about 20% of the world’s 1 billion smokers, female smoking rates are rising and tobacco ads increasingly target girls and women especially as they gain spending power and independence, particularly in the developing areas in Asia.

Some images from the WHO World No Tobacco Day site are below (smoking=ugly, not fashionable, not chic):

Image from WHO
Image from WHO
Image from WHO

Some facts from the WHO:

-Approximately the same number of girls as boys in half of 151 recently surveyed countries use tobacco.  (In some, more girls use than boys.)

-Women make up 64% of all deaths attributed to second-hand smoke.

-Tobacco is the second major cause of death in the world (one in 10 adults worldwide-about 5 million deaths each year)

-If current tobacco usage continues, smoking will kill 8 million people per year by 2030 (and 2.5 million will be women).

-Each day 3,000 people die from tobacco use in the Asia-Pacific region where smoking and chewing tobacco among women/girls is on the rise.

The international launch of World No Tobacco Day 2010 took  place right here in Tokyo with a press conference at the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.  Various events were apparently held around the country to raise awareness and promote the day.

Image from Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare

Although the number of smokers in Japan remains relatively high compared to other developed nations, (the Japan Health Promotion and Fitness Foundation estimated that as of 2009 approximately 38.9% of Japanese men and 11.9% of Japanese women were smokers) in recent years small changes have begun to take place such as removing cigarette vending machines from public offices and buildings and banning smoking in some restaurants/bars or certain areas or towns.

Recently Japan’s largest cigarette maker, Japan Tobacco released its “Zero Style Mint” smokeless cigarette.  The user inserts a tobacco cartridge into the stick which resembles a normal cigarette.  Although the smoker still gets the shot of nicotine and tobacco and menthol taste, no smoke is emitted.  The set of one stick and two cartridges is being sold in the Tokyo area for around 300 yen.  Apparently sales have been strong due to the fact that smokeless cigarettes allow people to smoke in traditionally non-smoking areas (airplanes, non-smoking train cars, etc.) and smokers feel these will allow them to have good “smoking manners” by not offending non-smokers with second-hand smoke.

The Japanese perception and image of smoking is still “fashionable” and not nearly as negative as it is in many Western nations, but maybe that will begin to change as more and more people become aware of and affected by the dangers and health risks.


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