The lightest market in the world: light and mild cigarettes in Japan

Nicotine Tob Res. 2008 May;10(5):803-10. doi: 10.1080/14622200802023882.


This article reviews the history of the introduction and use of light and mild labeled cigarettes in Japan, the "lightest" market in the world. Systematic keyword and opportunistic Web site searches were conducted on tobacco industry internal documents relevant to Japan, supplemented with relevant material from the tobacco trade and sociological literatures. Certain "market quirks" of the Japanese society benefited the tobacco industry in promoting its light and mild cigarettes. Japan's is a trend-conscious society with a penchant for new fashion and products. The Japanese are innovative, with the propensity to transform concepts into something characteristically their own marked by a distinct cultural style, such as the concept of keihaku tansho ("light-thin-short-small"). With big-budget sophisticated advertising, tobacco companies developed a lucrative market for mild, light, and ultra-low-tar cigarettes. Smokers had a preference for charcoal filters, which they believed protected them. Tar numbers meant little to smokers. The transnational tobacco companies capitalized on consumer concerns about the health hazards of smoking to promote low-tar cigarettes as a safer alternative. This may be one factor that explains why smoking prevalence in Japan remains high. Light and mild cigarettes are popular in Japan because Japanese smokers believe low tar/nicotine cigarette with charcoal filters protect them and help mollify their health concerns about smoking.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Advertising
  • Culture
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Marketing / methods*
  • Nicotine
  • Prevalence
  • Product Labeling
  • Smoking / ethnology*
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking / trends
  • Tars
  • Tobacco Industry* / history
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / ethnology


  • Tars
  • Nicotine