World Conference on Tobacco or Health session to focus on need for tobacco control progress in Japan

Where will new hope come from for tobacco control in Japan – are the best solutions social, cultural, legal, political, local, national? A session at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) on March 8 will address that question and examine the urgent need for progress.

The session chairs are Yumiko Mochizuki, M.D., Ph.D., associate director of Japan Cancer Society and Katie Kemper, M.B.A., executive director of Global Bridges. Four speakers will summarize facets of tobacco control in Japan, focusing on how it is influenced and identifying opportunities for improvement.

The economic burdens of tobacco use are enormous, according to Mark Parascandola, Ph.D., M.P.H., an epidemiologist with the Tobacco Control Research Branch in the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, and the first presenter of the session. Dr. Parascandola will provide global context for tobacco control in Japan, and present evidence from Spain and other countries showing that strong smoke-free policies have not harmed economies or businesses.

“Implementing comprehensive smoke-free policies is fundamental to effective tobacco control, as such policies go beyond reducing exposure to changing social norms,” Dr. Parascandola said. “We now have evidence from many cities and countries around the world demonstrating that such policies benefit health and, at the same time, do not adversely impact businesses.”

Patricia Lambert, director of the International Legal Consortium at the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, will provide overviews of the social, legal, scientific and political landscapes for the tobacco industry in Japan. The Tokyo skyscrapers, home to the tobacco industry offices, continue to cast an enormous shadow over related policies, Lambert said, and social norms only perpetuate their influence.

Subnational and regional approaches – city-level actions – are also underway in Japan, even if national policy moves more slowly. Kate Lannan, coordinator of the Tobacco Free Initiative at the World Health Organization, will discuss ordinances, enforcement of national laws and recognition for subnational organizations that have taken smoke-free policy seriously.

Dr. Mochizuki will close out the session with a presentation on “the path to hope.” On the national level, tobacco control is slow-moving and inadequate: if the latest, proposed national smoke-free legislation is enacted, more than half of bars and restaurants will escape the restrictions. There is, however, hope in healthy companies to make smoke-free workspaces, economic incentives and zero emissions efforts – and there is optimism in “tobacco-free generation” social movements and initiatives such as Global Bridges’ newest grant program in partnership with Japan Cancer Society and Pfizer Global Medical Grants.

Will you be at WCTOH? Tweet @globalbridges to let us know which sessions you look forward to attending.