Japan’s Health Minister Says Cigarette Prices Should Rise 75%

Tobacco taxes in Japan should be raised until the average price for a pack of cigarettes is about 700 yen, or 75 percent more than the present level, to cut medical costs, Health MinisterYoko Komiyama said.

The ministry, which is participating in a tax panel session, will push for increasing tobacco levies by 100 yen annually for three years, Komiyama said. Most of the members of the panel agreed with the idea last year, she said.

Efforts to raise duties have been complicated by government ownership of a controlling stake in Japan Tobacco Inc. (2914), the world’s third-biggest publicly traded cigarette maker, and concerns that tax revenue may decline for the country facing the world’s largest public debt. Smoking was responsible for at least 4.3 trillion yen in medical costs and economic losses for Japan in 2005, according to a study by Institute for Health Economics and Policy.

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Releasing 70,000 Psychiatric Patients Shows Japan Debt Task and Homeless Risk

In the hallway of St. Pierre Psychiatric Hospital north of Tokyo, an elderly woman sits on the floor next to a bulging brown duffle bag, her arms wrapped around her knees, mumbling about being taken home.

She has packed her things many times since she was admitted for schizophrenia more than 20 years ago, in the belief someone is coming to fetch her, said psychiatrist Manabu Yamazaki, the hospital’s owner.

Her hope mirrors that of the government, which wants to empty 70,000 beds to reduce the highest rate of psychiatric hospitalization among developed nations, lowering its 1.8 trillion yen $23.5 billion annual mental-health payments. Facing the world’s largest public debt and the fastest aging society, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is trying to curtail growth in the country’s 34.8 trillion yen-a-year health bill.

via Releasing 70,000 Psychiatric Patients Shows Japan Debt Task.