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'Zero passive smoking' goal dropped from gov't anti-cancer plan

The government adopted a new basic plan on cancer control on Oct. 24 that will be the index for national countermeasures against cancer for the next six years, it has been learned.

Prior to the decision, the government had in fact been considering introducing a "zero passive smoking" policy. However, in the end, numerical targets of this nature were shelved.

In addition, consensus on the matter was supposed to have been reached this summer but difficulties in terms of coordination with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) meant that the decision was heavily delayed. Specifically, the LDP was against bringing in strict countermeasures, and the government effectively abandoned the "zero passive smoking" target.

The plan, which is scheduled to run between fiscal 2017 and 2022, comprises three main pillars, namely "cancer prevention," "enhanced cancer treatment," and "living with cancer."

Previously, a Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare expert panel, which reviews the plan, agreed on incorporating a target of "zero passive smoking in restaurants, workplaces and homes" by fiscal 2020 -- the year of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics -- as part of its anti-cancer measures.

However, at this year's regular Diet session, there were differences in opinion between the government and the LDP over bringing in stronger measures against passive smoking in an amendment to the Health Promotion Act. Therefore, the government has decided to delay revision of the act until a consensus in opinion can be reached.

Meanwhile, prefectural governments across the country are to compile their own plans based on the government's proposal, taking into consideration the situations in their respective regions. Had the government's decision been any later, this could have had a detrimental effect on the countermeasure schedules of local governments across Japan.

Other targets in the basic plan include the reduction of the adult smoking rate from 18.3 percent in 2016 to 12 percent by fiscal 2022. With regard to the cancer screening rate, which is currently stuck in the 30 to 40 percent range, the aim is to increase this to 50 percent for stomach, bowel, lung, breast and uterus cancer, and to increase the rate of detailed examination screening to 90 percent.

Moreover, for rare cancers and cancers which are difficult to cure, the plan pushes for early detection and improved methods of treatment.

In addition to age-related countermeasures for groups such as children, young adults and senior citizens, there are also goals in the plan relating to the provision of genomic medicine based on patients' genetic information.

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