On the online version of The Japan Times, I came across an interesting article. Apparently this former Australian nurse turned English teacher is on a pilgrimage to inform the people of Japan about the hazards of smoking. He is walking approximately 40 km a day with his motto "Not Smoking is Love". Will his act of anti-smoking propaganda help the people of Japan to stop smoking? Not Bloody Likely!!!
Japan is one of the most smoke friendly countries I have ever visited. The abundance of vending machines is astronomical (over 500,000). Even though you can't smoke in Japan until the age of 20, getting a hold of a pack of cigarettes is not a problem. Here are a couple of facts about smoking I found on the W.H.O. website. It was reported that in 2002 that over 50% of adult males smoke and about 10% of the women smoke in this country. I personally think that there are a lot more than this. You can't stop at a red light without seeing at least two people smoking in their cars (usually with their little kids in the front seat without a seatbelt on running around and pretty much going crazy). Japan's Finance Ministry is a major shareholder in Japan Tobacco, a multinational. It is estimated that over 1 in 8 deaths a year (100,000) are due to smoking. Death by smoking is more common than suicide.
Japan has some of the most lax anti-tobacco laws for any developed nation. You can smoke just about anywhere, and if you see a sign for no smoking you will likely see directions to a smoking section somewhere near by. When I joined my company (which will remain nameless), they even suggested that we start smoking in order befriend the other Japanese teachers. The year before I arrived here smoking in the teacher's lounge was still legal. Luckily, the law has changed, but most schools have either an unnoficial hiding area outside or a secret room somewhere in the school where you can have a quick fix. Since I don't smoke, I have never been asked to join my collogues for a quick fag. But another English teacher I know, informed me about his special room where teacher's come to have a quick smoke in-between classes... It was a storage room of sorts with a desk. If you would have opened the desk drawer you would have been privy to a truckload of cigarette butts.
Therefore, I applaud Mr. Mark Gibbons for his efforts, but I think he is just taking a really long walk for nothing. Best of luck dude! But it is more likey that Martians will come down from the heavens before Japan changes their anti-smoking policy in this decade.
This is non-smoking Jody in Japan saying: "HUGS not DRUGS"
PS Average cost for a pack of cigarettes in Japan 300 Yen (that's pretty damn cheep!).