My Japanese friends are really surprised when I tell them about the price of cigarettes available in Australia. That’s because cigarettes really are expensive. Since 2008, the price of cigarettes has doubled in Australia and they are now said to be the most expensive in the world. For example, a packet of 25 Marlboro cigarettes costs $34.95. Even though the Japanese yen is high now, that’s about 2,796 yen, calculated at 80 yen to the dollar. That’s per packet! Roll-your-own tobacco seems to be a little cheaper, but it’s still quite expensive. When I first came to Australia, I often saw people dexterously rolling cigarettes by hand, which surprised me because it was a sight I hadn’t seen much in Japan. But I think people choose to smoke roll-your-own cigarettes because they mean a bit of a saving compared to the more expensive ready-made cigarettes in packets. Cigarettes are sold at tobacco shops, supermarkets, convenience stores like Seven-Eleven, gas station counters, and vending machines in pubs. There are no cigarette vending machines on footpaths, like in Japan. And at some point, doors or shutters were fitted to the cigarette display shelves where they sell them, so that you can’t see the cigarettes. That means you have to ask the shop staff to show you what’s inside or you say "Could I have XYZ brand" to make your purchase. In addition, they also check people’s age, depending on the person. Although they’re arranged on shelves, they’re hidden from view, so when you buy cigarettes it makes you kind of feel like you're buying something you shouldn't. I guess trying to keep cigarettes out of children’s sight as much as possible is a way of trying to reduce the number of smokers. In the World Health Organization (WHO) worldwide ranking of smoker numbers published in 2018, Australian men were 133rd, which was almost the lowest ranking among developed countries, but in contrast, the women were in 52nd place, which is quite high and frankly, surprising. At the same time, the number of female smokers in Japan ranked 55th, so the percentage of female smokers was higher in Australia than in Japan. Although the statistics didn’t show for example how many cigarettes people smoke each day, I don’t think there are many heavy smokers, people who smoke one or two packets a day. If you smoke two packets, you’re spending more than 5,000 yen a day on cigarettes alone. There are very few smokers in my circle of friends, but I think even the ones who do smoke only smoke from five up to a maximum of ten a day. Some of the Japanese people I know used to smoke, but most of them quit after coming to Australia. I think the reason might be that it is more difficult to smoke here because the price of cigarettes is high, there are limited places where you can smoke, and there are more people here who dislike smoking compared to Japan, which makes people who do smoke stand out. Except for some expensive casino rooms, all restaurants, hotels, and buildings other than residential buildings are non-smoking in Australia. There aren’t any smoking rooms or the like inside restaurants or cafés. You must smoke outside the building and there are even regulations about where you can smoke outside, but the specifics of the rules vary from state to state. For example, smoking is prohibited within five meters of a building other than a residential building. Smoking is also prohibited between the flags on a beach, within 10 meters of a children’s playground, within five meters of a kindergarten, public bus stop and so on, and within five meters of a nursing home building, so the rules are quite detailed. I think these strict regulations are due to pleas that if people are going to smoke, they should give the most consideration to people who don't smoke, especially children and the elderly. With this regime, smoking is like something you only do outdoors, so I have almost never seen anyone smoke inside at home. You might think that if cigarettes are so expensive, you’d like to bring in a lot of them from outside the country, but there are also firm regulations on that. A person over the age of 18 can bring in 25 grams or an unopened packet of 25 cigarettes, which is about the same quantity, and a tobacco tax is incurred if you bring in more than that. The tobacco tax is about $14 (1,120 yen) per 20 cigarettes, so it's cheaper than buying them in Australia, but it's still not at all cheap. This is a society where prices will continue to rise and smoking will become more and more difficult in the future, but when you think about the health aspect, tobacco does no good and a lot of harm, and if you quit with the high prices, you would probably save a considerable sum, on a yearly basis too. That said, I too was actually a smoker, a long time ago.
Inside a shop that sells cigarettes. The cigarettes are kept behind the yellow doors so you can’t see them. Above them is a message "Smoking Kills". And there is a dedicated phone line you can call if you want to quit smoking.