As the number of smokers in Japan rises, it’s now time to ask why they’re still using tobacco.
The tobacco industry has been lobbying for years to get rid of the law, which bans smoking in bars and restaurants, and bans the sale of cigarettes in supermarkets and on the internet.
The law has been criticised for driving up smoking rates in Japan, which accounts for around half of the population.
But Japan Tobacco International (JTI) has been pushing hard for a change, saying the current legislation is not being enforced properly.
“We’re not going to sit here and say, ‘oh well, we’ll just get rid’ of the tobacco law, because that would be a mistake,” JTI chairman Masato Matsuda told the BBC.
“The law is a problem and the tobacco industry is working hard to bring about the change that we’re seeking, so that people can get the help they need.”
The law, introduced in 1995, has been enforced sporadically, and its enforcement has been patchy.
The BBC asked JTI for an interview with one of the country’s top tobacco regulators, Takashi Hasegawa, but he refused.
“You’ll get to the point where you’ll get an answer to your questions,” he said.
“I can’t say anything at the moment.”
A year ago, JTI won the backing of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to pass a package of legislation that aims to ease tobacco use.
It will now need to pass the legislature to become law.JTI argues the law will make it easier for people to quit smoking, and it will allow people to buy cigarettes on the Internet.
But many in Japan say the law has led to an increase in the number and number of people using tobacco, which has caused health problems.
“It’s not only the number that is increasing, it is the number who have used tobacco and the number at risk, which is a really big problem,” Professor Hasego said.
The World Health Organization says smoking has been on the rise in Japan since about 2006.
But the number is increasing rapidly.JTI says that number is due to the country being the first to introduce a public health campaign that has also caused a spike in the use of tobacco products.
“In Japan, smoking is now the biggest problem,” said Masami Sugiyama, JTI’s vice-president of tobacco control.
“So the smoking rates have been increasing in the past couple of years.
This is a result of this campaign and the campaign by the Japanese government.”
Professor Sugiyoshi says the increase in smoking is caused by the government’s decision to ban cigarettes on public transport.
“When you do the statistics, it shows that there is no difference in the tobacco use rate between people in Tokyo and those in Kyoto,” she said.
Jtibis claim that the campaign was started by the Prime Minister, who said in an interview published in 2009 that smoking should be “abolished completely”.
“It should be abolished completely,” Mr Abe said.
Mr Sugiyosays this policy has led the country to the worst rate of smoking in the world.
“If we are serious about our health, we need to be doing more to reduce the number,” he told the broadcaster.
“This campaign has not succeeded.
It has been a failure.”