The Japanese smoker is becoming an increasingly rare breed. According to a new survey, 21.7% of Japanese adults are smokers, the lowest proportion recorded since the annual report conducted by Japan Tobacco Inc. began in 1965. The smoking population in Japan declined for the 16th consecutive year, but the latest figure is 2.2 percentage points lower than 2010, reflecting the steepest annual drop seen in recent years.
The increase in the tax on cigarettes in October has reignited sales of loose tobacco in Japan, which is designed to be smoked in old-fashioned pipes known as "kiseru." The Japanese government raised the tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products as much as 40 percent on October 1, with retailers reporting "panic buying" in the weeks leading up to that date.