In 2000, 50 percent of all men and 33 percent of all adults in Japan smoked cigarettes. But in 2015, something changed. Sales of cigarettes began declining five times faster than in the years before.
Japan’s success in reducing smoking rates through the widespread adoption of heat-not-burn (HNB) tobacco products has caught the attention of health professionals and policymakers worldwide. With its unique regulatory framework and effective public health campaigns, Japan has paved the way for offering smokers a potentially reduced-risk alternative to cigarettes.
Smoking remains a significant public health issue in many countries, causing numerous preventable diseases and premature deaths. Cigarettes, as they burn tobacco, release harmful chemicals and toxins that pose serious health risks to both smokers and those exposed to secondhand smoke. To combat this issue, alternatives provide nicotine to smokers without the associated combustion and smoke-related risks.
Tobacco use in Pakistan has serious consequences for public health. Each year, tobacco use claims the lives of over 163,600 individuals, with approximately 31,000 deaths attributed to secondhand smoke exposure alone. These alarming statistics underline the urgent need to explore alternatives to cigarettes and Pakistan can learn from Japan which once had alarmingly high rates of smokers.
The crucial factor behind Japan’s success in promoting HNB products is its progressive regulatory framework. In 2016, the Japanese government categorized HNB devices as “non-combustible cigarettes”.
The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare conducted extensive scientific studies to evaluate the risks and benefits of HNB products, engaging with industry stakeholders and independent experts. This evidence-based approach ensured that regulatory decisions were informed by the best available data, contributing to public trust and acceptance of HNB devices.
The introduction of HNB products in Japan has had a profound impact on smoking rates and public health: The reduced-risk nature of HNB devices attracted many smokers who were hesitant to adopt traditional smoking cessation methods. These products mimic the ritualistic and sensory aspects of smoking while significantly reducing the exposure to harmful chemicals found in combustible cigarettes.
By embracing HNB technology, Japan has managed to shift a significant portion of the smoking population towards a less harmful alternative, effectively reducing the overall harm caused by tobacco use and Pakistan can encourage smokers to switch to less harmful alternatives by adopting a similar regulatory framework that recognizes the potential harm reduction benefits of HNB products, thereby empowering them to make informed decisions about their health.