Just recently I published a post on the Japanese smoking and gambling epidemics. As I mentioned, almost 40% of men and 12% of women in Japan smoke today. Japanese laws now ban smoking in train stations, office buildings (except in designated rooms) and even on some streets, thus refining the constantly sought-after harmony in Japanese society between the smokers and non-smokers. Recent developments, however, could potentially facilitate cigarette smoking everywhere and anywhere, without ruffling anyone’s feathers. Impossible? Think again.
Just when I was ready to announce that the ultra-light 1mg-nicotine cigarettes and the “Kagi-tabacco” or “Snuff” (cigarettes in powder form for inhaling without smoking) were the pinnacle of Japanese ingenuity, Japan Tobacco (JT) announces the release of smoke-free, fire-less cigarettes.
These are shaped like regular cigarettes, but contain replaceable, specially designed cartridges of tobacco leaves and other flavoring ingredients. One cartridge lasts somewhere between half a day to an entire day, and the mouthpiece is reusable – This is perhaps more of a groundbreaking environmental invention than a technological breakthrough. Think of all the cigarette buds thrown away and the amount of CO2 released every single day with conventional smoking!
Since a part of cigarette addiction could be attributed to the habit of actually holding a cigarette, this new product allows people to get that satisfaction without the negative externalities imposed on others. Cigarettes are also a social accessory; going out for a smoke with a co-worker during a hectic day at the office is a crucial social interaction, providing a sense of comradeship and solidarity in Japanese culture. And when taking off early is frowned upon at the office, why not pass the time with hourly delicious, healthy cigarette breaks?
The “Zero-Style Mints” are currently sold for a budget price of 400 Yen including four cartridges, or 300 Yen with two cartridges. Assuming heavy smokers go through a pack of regular cigarettes a day (or two days at most), the new smoke-free, fire-less product seems to be much more economical. Could this be the turning point for Japan’s stagnant economy? Or would this exacerbate the aging of the Japanese population as people inhale less smoke into their lungs? Personally, I just don’t want to come home from a bar smelling like an ash tray anymore.