Industry data has shown that Japan's cigarette sales in the fiscal year 2020 fell below 100 billion for the first time in decades, as more smokers apparently opted to use heated tobacco products amid the spread of teleworking due to the coronavirus pandemic, reports Japan Today.
In the year that ended in March, sales of rolled tobacco products plunged by a record 16.3% from the year before to 98.8 billion sticks, the lowest since fiscal year 1990 when comparable data became available, according to the Tobacco Institute of Japan.
The figure represents more than a 70% drop from fiscal year 1996, when sales peaked at 348.3 billion cigarettes, says the 28 June 2021 story from Kyodo news agency.
In Japan, smoking rates among adults have been on the decline in recent years, reflecting concerns about health, according to a health ministry survey.
In 2019, 27.1% among men and 7.6% among women regularly smoked, down from 29.0% and 8.1% from the year before, the survey showed.
Heat-not-burn tobacco products that do not emit smoke, meanwhile, have become popular nationwide, especially among the younger generation, since around 2016. Sales of such heated tobacco products in fiscal year 2020 came to 41.3 billion sticks in Japan, equivalent to some 40% of rolled cigarette sales.
Such products involve an electronic device that heats tobacco leaves in a stick, and the user inhales the generated vapour (including nicotine) instead of smoke. It is seen as odourless and reduces risks of causing fires, according to the Kyodo story.
Heat-not-burn products are less harmful to health than traditional cigarettes, because the tobacco they contain is heated at considerably lower temperatures – around 350 degrees centigrade compared to up to 900 degrees centigrade, writes MedicalBrief.
It is known that most damage from cigarettes is caused by inhaling the smoke, which contains harmful substances, rather than nicotine, which is the addictive substance that smokers are after.
Heat-not-burn products are similar to e-cigarettes, as both are electronic smoking devices, MedicalBrief says. However, e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco leaves but chemical liquids – which may or may not contain nicotine, depending on user preference – and they heat liquids at even lower temperatures of around 250 degrees centigrade to produce the vapour.
The Kyodo story continues: "Due to the spread of the coronavirus, there have been more opportunities to smoke at home," said an industry official, adding such people turned to heat-not-burn cigarettes due to reluctance to release smoke inside their homes or on balconies. Also, since April 2020 stricter laws have made it difficult to smoke cigarettes almost anywhere.
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