There can be fewer places more amenable to nicotine addiction than Japan. The idea of smoking as a socially unacceptable habit has yet to gain currency, smoke-free bars and restaurants are a rarity and cigarettes, at around 300 yen (about $3.45) a pack, are surprisingly cheap.

But Japan’s reputation as a smokers’ paradise faces its toughest challenge for decades with the introduction this autumn of a price hike that will take the price to above 400 yen.

The increase, which comes into effect Oct. 1, is a sign of a shift in attitudes as Japan’s progressive government attempts to rein in soaring medical costs by hitting smokers where it hurts — in the pocket.

There are other signs that attitudes are hardening in a country where cancer kills one in three people, with lung cancer the biggest single killer among the disease’s various forms.

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Source: Justin McCurry – GlobalPost

Photo by: Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images