Japanese tax on cigarettes increased by 40%

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The Independent Online

Japan has imposed a record 40 per cent tax increase on cigarettes in an effort to curb the nation's smoking rate – the highest among industrialised nations.

The increase, effective from yesterday, has raised the price of Japan's most popular brand, Mild Seven, to 410 yen (£3.10) for a pack of 20, bringing it closer to prices in Europe and the US. In the weeks leading up to the tax increase, smokers stocked up on cigarettes, with some buying cartons by the armful.

"The aim is to encourage smokers to quit," said Kosuke Kato, a health ministry official. "We hope the price increase will discourage smokers from buying cigarettes and eventually help them quit smoking."

Smoking is still allowed in restaurants and bars across Japan. Authorities have tried to discourage smoking in public areas such as airports, train stations and government offices by designating smoking rooms.