“You Can Quit—We Did!”
BY AWAKE! CORRESPONDENT IN JAPAN
As the story goes, European ships that docked in Japan during the late 1500’s bore tobacco-smoking visitors, who appeared to be “making fire in their stomachs.” Astonishment gave way to curiosity, so that by the 1880’s, the tobacco habit had made itself at home in Japan. Who would have thought that the descendants of those astonished Japanese would today be numbered among the heaviest tobacco users in the world?
“WE WANTED to feel grown-up, to get acquainted with adult emotions.”—Akio, Osamu, and Yoko.
“I wanted to lose weight.”—Tsuya.
“It was out of curiosity.”—Toshihiro.
“We did not think that tobacco would affect us adversely.”—Ryohei, Junichi, and Yasuhiko.
“I wanted to offset morning sickness during my second pregnancy.”—Chieko.
“I took it up to fill awkward moments during business meetings.”—Tatsuhiko.
Those were the reasons given when a group of people here were asked why they began smoking cigarettes. Such explanations are quite understandable, in view of the fact that some call Japan a smokers’ paradise. Remarkably, though, the folks named above have all quit the tobacco habit. This is quite a feat when you consider the obstacles presented by their environment. Are you wondering how they did it? Let us first consider how widespread tobacco use is in Japan today.
The Tobacco Scene
About 56 percent of adult Japanese men smoke, as compared with only 28 percent of American men 15 years of age or older. Japan’s 34,000,000 smokers include about 22 percent of its women, many of whom are young. Adult example and clever advertising have contributed greatly to the rapid increase in youthful smokers. Cigarette advertising on TV and radio, which was banned in the United States more than two decades ago, is now banned in Japan.
Furthermore, cigarettes are easily available from many street-corner vending machines in Japan. Once the pack is in the hand, few heed the rather weak and casual messages printed on it. The label may simply read: “Let’s not smoke too much; it may be harmful.” And in addition to the fact that ignorance of the grave dangers of tobacco often prevails, the bad example of a number of prominent people also encourages the Japanese to smoke, lulling them into a false sense of security.
No wonder that antismoking advocates deplore Japan’s delinquency in not getting more of its citizens to stop using tobacco. But educators are starting to see the importance of warning people that smoking threatens their health and life. Yes, Japanese smokers experience the same symptoms as smokers elsewhere—nausea, shortness of breath, nagging cough, stomachache, loss of appetite, susceptibility to colds, and perhaps, in time, a premature death due to lung cancer, heart disease, or other problems.
As of April 1, 1985, the Japanese tobacco industry was privatized, ending decades of government monopoly. Nevertheless, it still enjoys close government ties that hinder any real strides in discouraging smoking. This explains why antitobacco groups regard Japan today as a smokers’ haven. And it explains why The Daily Yomiuri reported that doctors here are bemoaning the fact that Japan is “a society which encourages smoking.”
To see how some have succeeded in quitting, see the box “How We Quit.”
How Can You Quit?
The advice from former tobacco lovers, such as those in the box, boils down to this: Have a clear-cut motive for quitting. Love for God and a desire to please him is the best one. And loving your neighbor is another good one. Set a goal, and stick to it. Make it public that you are quitting—tell your friends, and enlist the help of your family members. Stop abruptly, if possible. And do all you can to avoid a smoking environment.
If you are studying the Bible, increase your association with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Being among them, you will soon lose your desire to smoke. On the other hand, if you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses studying the Bible with a smoker, do not give up on him. Help him to love Jehovah more than his bad habit.
[Box/Pictures on page 16, 17]
“How We Quit”
Mieko: “When I started to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was sure that I couldn’t quit smoking. My motive in studying was to have my children, at least, learn the way to life. But I soon realized that a parent must set the example, so I began to pray fervently to Jehovah God for help. It took effort to work at what I prayed for, and I felt miserable for a while. But I will never forget the fine feeling of a clean conscience that came over me when I finally freed myself of this filthy vice.”
Masayuki: “After being a three-pack-a-day smoker and after much trial and error, I finally put out my last cigarette and said good-bye to tobacco. My family, my fellow Witnesses, and Jehovah God helped me to quit. No one at the bank where I work believed I had quit. I suggested that as a courtesy to our customers, office workers in the general banking area not smoke during working hours. My suggestion was acted upon, even though 80 percent of the workers were smokers. This practice has now spread to 260 branches of our bank.”
Osamu: “As I learned the truth from God’s Word, the Bible, I knew I had to stop smoking. It took me almost a year. Even after I quit, for another six months, I had to fight the desire to smoke. I knew in my heart that I had to want to stop.”
Toshihiro: “Jesus’ ransom sacrifice impressed me so deeply that I felt I could at least make the sacrifice of giving up my smoking.”
Yasuhiko: “My decision to obey Jehovah God and quit smoking saved my life. One day, the room where I was working became filled with propane gas from a leak. Normally, I would have lit up a cigarette, which would have caused an explosion. But since I had stopped smoking a few days before, I am here today to talk about it.”
Akio: “When I started feeling nausea from time to time, I suspected that smoking was hurting me. But I didn’t quit. The first factual information I got about the dangers of smoking came from my wife, who had become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Soon I began studying the Bible, and I learned from the Watch Tower publications that a smoker harms not only himself but also his family members. I stopped immediately!”
Ryohei: “My wife used to buy my cigarettes for me—20 packs at a time. But after studying the Bible with the Witnesses, she refused to buy something that she knew would harm me. So I opened up my own tobacco shop. I was smoking three and a half packs a day. Then I began to study the Bible with the Witnesses. Soon I wanted to become an effective speaker on Bible topics. So I quit smoking in order to qualify for this training in the Theocratic Ministry School.”
Junichi: “My small daughter, who is a Witness, was concerned for my life. She made me promise to quit smoking, and I did.”
Tsuya: “When I visited a Kingdom Hall for the first time, I asked for an ashtray and a match as I entered. To my surprise, I was told that no one smoked there. I knew I had to quit smoking. Eight miserable days in the hospital convinced me that I never wanted to go through the agony of withdrawal again.”
Yoko: “I studied the subject in the magazines and other publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses, reviewing how Jesus refused the drugs that were offered to him when he was about to be nailed to the torture stake. I prayed to Jehovah God, telling him that I wanted to be a clean praiser of his name. After that, I never smoked again. When people around me did, I came close to wanting to inhale their smoke, but I quickly got away from it, as I did not want my smoking urge to resurface.”
These former smokers are all determined never to smoke again. Are you a smoker who wants to break free from this habit?
Akio and wife, Sachiko
Junichi and daughter Meri