JT Anti-Smoking Campaign: Seasonal

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I went to the Japan Tobacco (JT) site to grab images of the new spring “smoking manners” posters (there’s a really crazy one I saw yesterday), but I could only find the winter series. Japan’s consumer culture is probably the most season-sensitive in the world. Right now, we’re in the midst of a billion pop songs about hanami and sakura, and in December, there will be another million Christmas-themed jingle-bell ballads.

These JT ads go one step further than just winter-related smoking habits (you wouldn’t kill your child’s snowman, would you?!) and also promote commerce as part of their message. Don’t smoke and go skiing! Don’t smoke and visit tourist destinations!

Until recently, I had been very skeptical about Japan’s anti-smoking policies, seeing that the government profited directly from its tobacco monopoly for a long time and that many Japanese still doubt the direct cause-and-effect relationship between tobacco and cancer. However, in the last year I’ve been surprised how many restaurants and chain cafes are erecting clear plastic dividers between the non-smoking and smoking sections. This is a real positive development.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
April 13, 2005

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

33 Responses

  1. Nik Says:

    So it’s more like, “don’t put cigarettes where they don’t belong,” rather than, “don’t smoke to begin with” … interesting.
    At least it’s something different (and less obnoxious) than those annoying Truth posters/ads that are everywhere in the US …

  2. marxy Says:

    Jean Snow’s site (or maybe it was Momus’ site) had a great thread about these last year. I would look it up if you are interested.

  3. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Yes these posters first hit the streets (or trains and stations, rather) more than a year ago.

    Some odd folk beliefs I’ve heard about smoking in Japan over the years:

    – miso soup protects smokers against cancer

    – if you drink green tea while smoking you will not get cancer

    – smoking protects one against AIDS: “there’s very little AIDS in Japan because there are so many smokers” (opinion expressed by a Japanese woman at a gaijin bar)

    There are stupid ideas everywhere.

  4. marxy Says:

    In my marketing seminar, I had to read a pro-tobacco diatribe written by an ex-JT employee that was all about how the anti-tobacco lobby is just the upper middle classes trying to tell the working classes what to do.

  5. nate Says:

    my workplace (city board of ed) has a calendar with 12 different pictures from this campaign. I’m gonna put them up on my flickr later… will give a link.

    curiously, the opposite side of the calendar is in french and japanese and mostly expresses how great it is to be a smoker. Including “in the smoking area, I get to talk with people I don’t normally see”, and “if it hadn’t been for cigarettes, I’d never have seen this beautiful sky”.

  6. Chris_B Says:

    At least where I work, if you dont smoke you miss out on alot of important informal decision making that occurs in the smoking room.

    I posted a pic once of one of these ads that took up the whole side of a building in Nagoya outside the station across from the Bic Camera there.

  7. nate Says:

    ah, having taken a look at them all, the caution sign style ones are all about smoking courtesy, not anti-smoking at all. The french ones are about how smoking gives you freedom, contact with people, relaxation and sophistication.

    Perhaps the best juxtaposition:
    caution sign “my cigarettes smell good, other people’s smell bad”
    french: “at the end of my journey, I savour my favorite smell”

    (though I’m writing from memory)

  8. Momus Says:

    My original post about these ads was “The Etiquette of Public Information Display”:

    http://www.livejournal.com/users/imomus/41092.html

    I think they’re some of the funniest, most imaginative and original poster ads I’ve seen anywhere. I like how they give the most outrageously divergent perspectives on smoking in such a faux-deadpan way. It’s a wild subjectivity posing as objectivity. But it does also make people think of smoking in fresh ways. I’m fascinated by the whole approach of “using one’s creativity to invent new social faux pas”. Original thinking is a powerful thing, but it isn’t usually used to make new taboos! It’s usually seen as “liberating”. (In this case, as a rabid anti-smoker, I completely approve of the new taboos, of course.)

    The skiing one with the diagram of the man sticking his face in the snow is a scream!

  9. Chris_B Says:

    they are indeed creative, funny and sometimes interesting. they are also preaching to the chior as far as I can tell. I wish they were kind enough to put ashtrays near them though so I could enjoy some JT product without worrying about dirtying up the environment. I for one like the fact that there are lots of ashtrays around Tokyo.

  10. marxy Says:

    I think they’re creative and somewhat absurd, but I hesitate to proclaim efficacy just yet. As much as everyone hates Truth, they were an effective way to debase American teens’ big motivation for smoking – it’s “anti-establishment,” dude – by showing how it’s all big business trying to dupe you. This would NEVER work in Japan seeing that smoking has almost no anti-establishment appeal; conversely, smoking means coming-of-age, adulthood. It’s also a social lubricant and something to do to make yourself not feel alone waiting in an unknown place. Smoking in Japan is pro-social, not anti-social.

    So, I do think these ads could be effective, but I worry that the Japanese do not have perfect information on tobacco’s health risks. And these are also so silly that they kind of undercut their own serious message of scolding children with hot sticks of burning herbs.

  11. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    but I worry that the Japanese do not have perfect information on tobacco’s health risks.

    The Ministry of Health is well aware of the risks of tobacco and their Cancer Epidemiology Unit publishes excellent documentation on cancer rates and links with lifestyle trends every year. I recommend looking up their site if you’re interested in that sort of thing. And I’ve read somewhere, probably the Japan Times, that the Ministry of Health is trying to push the government to take a more active role in discouraging smoking. But it seems that JT’s lobby is stronger. Perhaps because they provide alot of revenue to the Ministry of Finance.

  12. marxy Says:

    Obviously the tobacco lobby is huge in the U.S. but the last time I checked the American federal government is not making money directly from tobacco revenue (opposed to taxes, which are highly lucrative and suppress smoking rates.)

    I don’t think that anti-smoking info is as well-known in Japan than the US or Canada etc., but then again, they seem to die a lot less from cigarettes. I think it’s the huge portions of fatty food PLUS tobacco that kills off the wretched obese of the Union.

  13. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    An important factor is that there has been a tremendous growth in the tobacco and alcohol consumption in Japan in recent decades. The rates of cancers associated with those lifestyle trends are on the increase. There was an article in The Economist about this in the late nineties. It might be online somewhere.

    http://www.ncc.go.jp/
    Is well worth a browse.

  14. marxy Says:

    The rates of cancers associated with those lifestyle trends are on the increase.

    Interesting. I also fear that Japanese life expectancy may increase since they are now eating more like Westerners. The 100 year-olds dying now grew up in the Taisho era, if not earlier. They barely ate white rice, let alone fried meats.

  15. porandojin Says:

    Anti-smoking craze is almost like the XIXth century anti-masturbation one … I mean, they had all the evidence and anyway it made you ‘nice and clean’ to not/stop doing it …

    porandojin, anonymous smoker

  16. Sameer Says:

    Dear Marxy,
    I just discovered this website. Glad to see you’re still as Marxy as ever. Is anyone else still in Tokyo from the good old days (circa Y2K)?

    Now, trying to maintain the topic of your thread…
    I was in Beijing a couple weeks ago. I surprisingly didn’t see much smoking there – perhaps the quasi-communists have re-educated it out of the masses…

  17. Mieg Says:

    I just found the other posters you were looking for, i think:

    http://www.jti.co.jp/sstyle/manners/ad/change/gallery/index.html

  18. marxy Says:

    That’s where I got the ones featured above. There’s a brand new one that I’m looking for that wasn’t on the site.

  19. Momus Says:

    I also fear that Japanese life expectancy may increase since they are now eating more like Westerners.

    In that case, my life expectacy may decrease because I’m eating more like a Japanese. It’s a plot, you see. They give us their cuisine, which kills us, and we give them ours, which makes them live forever.

  20. nh Says:

    It’s not true that most Japanese doubt the direct cause-and-effect relationship between tobacco and cancer.

    Actually most Japanse *know* it as a fact. The thing is, they believe that mental health is far more imporant. You might be surprised that some of Japanese doctors even suggest their patient not to quit smoking if it is really really hard for them. They say to be feeling good is more important than to be physically healthy.

    In other words, most Japanese believe that not-smoking doesn’t necessary mean no-cancer while they think that not-smoking is better practice in general.

    The problem of smoking is not the chance of cancer. Technically, if you have a cup of coffee, it gains the chance of cancer, too. The most important things is that tabacco stinks to some people and they hate it. Cancer is not an issue at all in that sense.

  21. marxy Says:

    Interesting.

    Although in my seminar we had a debate about tobacco and my professor kept saying things like, “Well, the link between cancer and smoking isn’t proven yet..” and the other professor was like, “Well in America they seem to think so…”

  22. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    “Well, the link between cancer and smoking isn’t proven yet..” and the other professor was like, “Well in America they seem to think so…”

    Would it have been considered bad form to flash out some of those documents from the Japanese National Cancer Centre?

    From what I recall, their official position is that the link between smoking and cancer is beyond reasonable doubt.

  23. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    most Japanese believe that not-smoking doesn’t necessary mean no-cancer while they think that not-smoking is better practice in general.

    Statements which begin “most X believe …” are meaningless unless their are backed up with some kind of evidence from a carefully conducted survey.

    Perhaps you should say “it seems to me that many Japanese believe that …” or better “many of the Japanese people I know believe that ….”. If you consider yourself an authority on the opinions of the population of some country you’re going to have to back it up with some evidence.

  24. nate Says:

    Sorry about the delay in getting up the 12 posters, I’ve only gotten 1 up so far at my flickr address. The rest will go up when I get home from work at 4 oclock on the dot.

    Also forgive the bathtub shot.

  25. nate Says:

    hmm… no html links here?

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/notnato

  26. marxy Says:

    hmm… no html links here?

    You forgot the apostrophes.

  27. nh Says:

    marxy, obviously, your professor’s word doesn’t represent what many of Japanese think. I believe he would also say that the link between blood type and personality isn’t proven but you know many of Japanese still sillily believe there certainly is a link, don’t you. :-D

    Japanese *think* they know smoking increases risk for cancer whether or not it’s proven. If you don’t believe so, go to Shibuya or Shinjuku and randomly pick 10 innocent Japanese and ask them if they *think* if everyone knows it. (as long as you look crisp Gaijin and speak fluent Japanese, they would probably answer to your bizarre question :-))

    Japan is not America. Most of people in Japan are Japanese. Their parent are Japanese. Everyone *knows* a rainbow consists of 7 colors. Heheh.

    But the thing is, it is not an issue of risk for cancer for smokers. They just can’t quit. They don’t feel they want to quit. They follow what their gut tell, not their brain tell.

  28. nate Says:

    lets try that again.
    caution

    that’s 12 of the jt posters from a calendar at my work.

  29. Sarmoung Says:

    What great posters. Thanks for the link Mieg, the pdf files are sharp enough for screen printing. I feel a range of smoking etiquette summer t-shirts coming on.

    As a smoker, I really don’t have any substantial argument against our ostracism. I’ve been using a portable ashtray for a while in London and people say why not just throw the end in the gutter? There’s people paid to sweep that up. You trying to put them out of work?

    As someone fairly immune to smoke-filled environments, my one personal issue with smoking in Japan is how people smoke half a fag (you only get cancer from the second half… Dream on!) and then stub it out very ineffictively so produces that nasty smouldering smell. Maybe one day those corner side and platform ashtrays in Tokyo and elsewhere, the sort that belch vile smoke at some critical mass of half-lit butts, will be a distant memory.

  30. Sarmoung Says:

    Looking around the JTI site a bit more, I notice that there’s even a design your own smoking manner poster option at the bottom.

    http://www.jti.co.jp/sstyle/manners/ad/change/postermaker/index.html

    It’s a bit limited at the moment though. Momus, how about suggesting to that Bjorn bloke who did the Bayeux and Hokusai flash to do something in similarly clean style so we can all easily design our own friendly advisory urban posters?

  31. Chris_B Says:

    Sarmoung: the still burning but is my pet peeve as well. I have an “enemy” in the smoking room who always does that. Of course he is a senior manager and so I cant say anything to him…

  32. Dolinda Meeker Says:

    I was just in Tokyo and quickly became obsessed with these posters. I desperately want to get my hands on one…I think they are amazing.

    Any suggestions????

  33. Dolinda Meeker Says:

    I was just in Tokyo and quickly became obsessed with these posters. I desperately want to get my hands on one…I think they are amazing.

    Any suggestions????