Price hike won't turn Japanese kids off smoking

Mainichi Daily Teleqraph
9 October 2008
     

Almost a third of junior high and high school students who smoke don't consider a hike in the price of cigarettes reason enough to quit smoking, a recent survey by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has found.

The level of dependence on cigarettes is considered to be higher for younger smokers than for adults, a belief that was reflected in the survey. "If cigarette prices are raised in order to discourage minors from smoking, each pack of cigarettes should be priced at least 1,000 yen," the research team points out.

The survey was conducted among about 90,000 students at 130 junior high schools and 109 high schools across Japan from December last year to February this year.

In the survey, about five percent of all respondents said they had smoked within a month. Asked if cigarette prices would influence their decision to quit, 25 percent of the smokers answered that 600 yen per pack would make them stop smoking, 42 percent chose 1,000 yen as the price they would quit, while 29 percent noted they would keep on smoking even at 1,000 yen a pack. Among the nonsmokers, a majority of 38 percent said the price would have to be as high as 1,500 yen to make them not want to start smoking.

In another survey, the prices that would make more than the half of adult smokers decide to quit smoking were, on average, 467 yen per pack among people with a lower dependence and 706 yen among those highly dependent -- figures that were much lower than the prices that junior high and high school students quoted.

"Minors can easily become reliant on cigarettes in a short period of time. About 10 percent of the underage smokers in the survey were nicotine-dependent," said research team member Yoneatsu Ozaki, associated professor at the Division of Environmental and Preventive Medicine, Tottori University. "Considering one third of smokers spend over 3,000 yen on cigarettes every month, it will be difficult to make them stop their smoking habit unless cigarette prices are drastically increased."

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