Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, Now is the Best Time to Quit Smoking [2020年05月12日（Tue）]
―Novel Coronavirus and Smoking 1―
As the world struggles with the deadly coronavirus pandemic, there is a growing call for smokers at home and abroad to kick the habit, which makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19 and exposes them to a higher risk of developing severe illness from the disease.
Since 2008, when a pack of 20 cigarettes cost around 300 yen, I have proposed a number of times raising the price to 1,000 yen. This has provoked a strong reaction, both for and against, with some extremists calling me “stupid” or even telling me, “You should die!” (As of March 2020, most cigarette brands cost between 400 yen and 500 yen a pack in Japan.)
In the past, when journalists wrote with a cigarette in one hand and a pen in the other, the media weren’t particularly interested in promoting no smoking, and articles would explore both sides of the debate. But with the advent of the personal computer, things started to change and there has been a considerable decline in the number of journalists who smoke.
My goal was to reduce the chance of non-smokers’ being exposed to secondhand smoke−the unwanted breathing in of other people's cigarette smoke, or passive smoking−by raising the price of cigarettes. I now issue a fresh call to smokers to quit to save their own lives and those of their family members.
According to international wire reports, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease issued a statement on April 3, telling smokers that "this is the absolute best time to quit smoking" and urging the tobacco industry to “immediately stop producing, marketing and selling tobacco.”
“Smoking weakens the immune system and its responsiveness to infections, making smokers more vulnerable to infectious diseases,” including COVID-19, the statement said.
Prior to this, the Japan Society for Tobacco Control and the Tobacco Problems Information Center jointly announced on March 31 an urgent appeal, titled “How not to contract and to prevent COVID-19.” The advice is clear: “Quite smoking. Avoid passive smoking.”
According to a 2018 survey by Japan Tobacco Inc., smokers accounted for 27.8% of Japanese adult males, and 8.7% of females. These represented decreases of 11.7 percentage points for male smokers and 4.2 percentage points for females. Though there has been a steady decline in numbers, an estimated 14 million Japanese males still smoke. This is still on a high plateau compared with the United States and some European countries. Alarmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Japan Society for Tobacco Control is determined to further beef up its activities.
It may be that what smokers really feel is expressed in the words of the old song by the late Japanese singer Hitoshi Ueki: “I know what I’m doing is bad for me, but I can’t help myself.” It is my sincere hope that they seriously consider quitting as it affects not only their own lives but also those of the people around them.