B. Japan’s Commitment for Future Smoke-free Japan

Tobacco smoking kills an estimated 129,000 Japanese in Japan every year based on 2007 data, and more than half of them die because of second-hand tobacco smoke (FCTC 2018).  Additionally, there are significant different in the life expectancy between the smoker and non-smoker elder people, whether men or women (see figure 1). As the numbers keep dropping, this concern carries a big attention to the WHO FCTC and the Japanese Governor to make sure that Japan will improve the health populations in the future.

table 1Figure 1 Japanese people who born between 1935 -1945 (Sakata et al. 2012)<https://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e7093 >

Japan’s health policies relating to tobacco are vague and minimal. Furthermore, Japanese law does unclear motive whether they are committed to ban smoking in public area. One of the Japanese tobacco law in The Health Promotion Act stated, ‘Article 25 of the Health Promotion Act is non-binding and asks managers of certain enumerated public places, and “other facilities used by numerous people” to “try to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent passive smoking exposure” (The Health Promotion Act 2002, s. 103).’ Additionally, in a review site about Japanese tobacco control law also stated that, ‘At the national level, the language of the laws are not obligatory in nature and do not require managers or employers to ban or restrict smoking in workplaces, but rather “to endeavor” or “to try” to take measures “as necessary” (Tobaccocontrollaws.org, 2018).’ Thus, these two statement showing that Japanese tobacco laws does not align with the FCTC Art. 8 Guidelines that indicate certain places in Japan to be smoke-free (Guidelines on Protection from Exposure to Tobacco Smoke 2007).

There is no other way for Japan but to take slow step by step as the Japanese learn to change for their own health benefits. Starting from Tokyo, Japan Governor, Yoichi Masuzoe, was in an uproar to achieve his goal of smoke-free Tokyo that plan to be held before the Olympic games in 2020 (FCTC 2018); also a starter to accomplish Japan Art.8 of the Convention to World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). The announcement came out of the country and brought people from outside to use this opportunity to support Japan. Phillip Morris, the British American Tobacco company is collaborated with Japan Tobacco company to raise up the smokeless heated-tobacco device, named IQOS (Phillip Morris International n.d.). With certain temperatures settings, the device will not burn the cigarette but heat them to avoid the release of smoke; instead a nicotine containing vapor will release. IQOS has been released in Japan not long after the smoke-free statement in 2014.

However, there is always a negative and unsolved problem after seemingly to be solved. The device is a ‘safer’ smoking device, means it will just slow down the risk of tobacco related diseased and not completely solved it. And while the use of the device is very expansive, more people are still going with the old way. A lot of remaining things that has to be carried by Japan government, like the health warnings on tobacco packaging and advertising who had been a struggle for them to overcome with the tobacco companies and relevant departments of government (The Japan Times 2017, para. 5).



B. Here to harm or here to help?

Hon Lik

Hon Lik, Captured by Wang Zhao, n.d.

The use of electronic cigarettes, better known as “vaping”, mimics the look and feel of smoking through heating up chemicals in a cartridge which is then inhaled by the user (Fairchild, A. et al, 2014). These devices were designed by 52 year old pharmacist, inventor and smoker, Hon Lik from Beijing, China in 2003 (CASAA, 2016) after his father who was a heavy smoker died of lung cancer. Hon Lik wanted to minimise the use of tobacco by creating a tobacco-less product which still gave the user a nicotine hit. Hon Lik’s invention was the seed which sprouted a billion dollar industry, which now sees tobacco companies owning all of the top e-cigarette brands (Greenhalgh, E., & Scollo, M. 2016). 

Now… without a critical eye as of yet, and assuming the intentions were pure, the e-cigarette initiative was a transdisciplinary design which created conversation around alternatives to tobacco smoking. But with heavy investment now made by the tobacco industry, are we merely consuming the harmful collateral of marketing extraordinaries, giving more money to tobacco tycoons (Cheney, M. et al, 2015)?

Hon Lik graduated from a Traditional Chinese Medicine college, where he majored in Pharmarcy. Post graduation, Lik spent over ten years working in plant agriculture, while developing a system which used food additives as solvents vaporised by ultrasound to help combat his smoking habits (Blu UK,2016). Lik’s initial design used a transdisciplinary approach to create a well informed product with good intentions. This bottom-up approach started from one individuals experimentation into dealing with tobacco issues.


Tobacco Fields, Keith Taylor, 2013

Once patenting the product, the commercial use become fanatical before enough research was conducted to know if this design was a solution to an issue, or if it became part of the issue itself. In 2015, an estimated 35 million people were recorded as regular users of vapour products and the market was estimated to be worth 7.1 billion US dollars (Greenhalgh, E., & Scollo, M. 2016). 

The tobacco industry is heavily investing in this product which shows a projected increase in popularity, highlighting the possibility of reliance and addiction (Cheney, M. et al, 2015). There is definitely a path that can be taken with this design to help combat the tobacco issues we have, however with the more momentum this fad gains, the more open it is to being morally and ethically questioned. 

Research such as the one conducted by (Caponnetto P, et al. 2014) shows that we can definitely adapt Hon Lik’s design to help combat the issue and see preferential changes, however we must develop this product to make it a healthier alternative. We must remain aware of the companies and industries that are supporting the evolution of such products to assure that the general population are making educated and informed decisions rather than buying in to new-age marketing tactics. 

Is Vaping Healthier?, WIRED, Youtube, 2016



  1. blu UK. (2016). Hon Lik: The Man Who Invented Vaping. [online] Available at: https://www.blu.com/en/GB/blog/about/hon-lik–the-man-who-invented-vaping/hon-lik-man-invented-vaping-2.html?countryselect=true (Accessed 27 Nov. 2018)
  2. Caponnetto P, Campagna D, Cibella F, Morjaria JB, Caruso M, Russo C, et al. (2014) Correction: EffiCiency and Safety of an eLectronic cigAreTte (ECLAT) as Tobacco Cigarettes Substitute: A Prospective 12-Month Randomized Control Design Study. PLoS ONE 9(1): https://doi.org/10.1371/annotation/e12c22d3-a42b-455d-9100-6c7ee45d58d0
  3. CASAA. (2016). Historical Timeline of Electronic Cigarettes. [online] Available at: http://www.casaa.org/historical-timeline-of-electronic-cigarettes (Accessed 27 Nov. 2018)
  4. Cheney, M., Gowin, M., & Wann, T. F. (2015). Marketing practices of vapor store owners. American journal of public health, 105(6), e16-21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4431105/ 
  5. Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems and Electronic Non-Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS/ENNDS). (2016). In: Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. [online] Delhi, India: WHO Framework Convention, pp.1-7. Available at: https://www.who.int/fctc/cop/cop7/FCTC_COP_7_11_EN.pdf (Accessed 27 Nov. 2018)
  6. Fairchild, A., Bayer, R. and Colgrove, J. (2014). The Renormalization of Smoking? E-Cigarettes and the Tobacco “Endgame”. New England Journal of Medicine, 370(4), pp.293-295 https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1313940
  7. Greenhalgh, E., & Scollo, M. (2016) InDepth 18B: Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). In Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH [editors]. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; 2016. Available from: http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-18-harm-reduction/indepth-18b-e-cigarettes
  8. NSW Health. (2018). Ban the use of e-cigarettes in smoke-free public places – Tobacco and Smoking. [online] Available at: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/tobacco/Pages/use-ecigs-in-public-places.aspx (Accessed 27 Nov. 2018)
  9. Taylor, K. (2013). Tobacco Fields. [image] Available at: http://www.keithtaylorphotography.com/landscape-photography-southern-living-tobacco-fields-morris-west-and-life-perspective (Accessed 27 Nov. 2018)
  10. WIRED (2016). Is Vaping Healthier than Smoking?. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFSuRu5zZNc (Accessed 27 Nov. 2018)
  11. Zhao, W. (2016). Hon Lik enjoying a vape. [image] Available at: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/kb7gey/we-asked-the-inventor-of-the-e-cigarette-what-he-thinks-about-vape-regulations-5886b747f672c2456363054c (Accessed 27 Nov. 2018)