The court’s decision contrasts with similar suits in the US that have embroiled leading tobacco groups in multi-million dollar settlements, partly reflecting Japan’s more relaxed attitude to smoking.
Six former smokers, three of whom had died by the time the case came to court, sought Y60m($544,000) in compensation after developing cancer, arguing that JT had not informed consumers about health risks related to smoking. They also accused the government of negligence in supervising the tobacco industry.
Japan Tobacco, the world’s third largest cigarette maker, was a state monopoly and is still 66.7 per cent owned by the government.
But Tokyo District Court ruled that JT and the government could not be held responsible for causing the plaintiff’s health problems and that making and selling cigarettes was a legal activity.It also dismissed their argument that warnings on cigarette packets did not convey the dangers of smoking. Warning labels in Japan are weaker in tone and smaller in size than European or US equivalents.