Tobacco use, particularly smoking, remains the number one cause of preventable disease and mortality in Japan. This review of the tobacco control policy and public health is the first to offer a composite review of the subject within Japan. This review attempts to evaluate the most important aspects of the current political economy of the tobacco control policy, and concludes that more effective control policies must be employed to minimize the impact of smoking on the public's health in Japan. Further the article attempts to place the approaches in the larger context of tobacco control, providing a vision for the future of tobacco prevention and control based on current knowledge. Tobacco use will remain the leading cause of preventable illness and death in Japan, until tobacco prevention and control efforts are commensurate with the harm caused by tobacco. Taken together, the results of various studies have clearly shown that control measures can influence tobacco smoking patterns, and in turn, the rate of tobacco-related problems. Government tobacco taxes have not kept pace with inflation for years. Availability of tobacco is virtually unlimited with easy access and the prices being very low due to the strong currency of Japan. Thus Japan must be one of the most tobacco accessible countries. It is important to ensure that people are not conditioned to smoke tobacco by an unduly favourable economic and commercial environment. For that reason, prevention advocates have called for substantial regulation of tobacco products and appeal for both tobacco tax increases and tobacco taxes to be indexed to inflation. In this review, present tobacco related public health policies in Japan are discussed with implication for prevention of tobacco related problems. Continued research in this area will be necessary to determine the most effective policies of reducing tobacco related problems in Japan.