Survey studies nation's smokers

By Takeshi Yamashina, Mainichi Shimbun, Sunday 14 November 1999

More than half of the nation's smokers are nicotine addicts who cannot kick the habit, a Health and Welfare Ministry survey has revealed.

The survey on smoking, conducted in February and March this year, covered some 13,000 people over 15 years old.

The results of the poll, which used World Health Organization standards, show that 53.9 percent of the nation's smokers, or 18 million people, including minors, may be smoking addicts, according to ministry officials.

The younger people start smoking, the more likely they are to become nicotine addicts, said one of the officials.

In fact, 62 percent of those who began smoking in their teens are probably addicts, followed by 53.5 percent of those who picked up the habit in their 20s. A slightly lower number, 47.7 percent, of those who started smoking in their 30s are believed to be addicts.

Of pollees, 54.7 percent said they began smoking before turning 20, the legal smoking age.

The survey also found that 19 percent of surveyed men under 20 smoke, while 4.3 percent of the polled women below the legal age are smokers.

The officials estimate that about 920,000 people smoke although they have not yet reached the age at which smoking is legal.