Conveying misinformation: Top-ranked Japanese books on tobacco
1 Independent Consultant, Bryan, TX 77802 USA
2 Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences, 3333 California St, Suite 455, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94118, USA
Tobacco Induced Diseases 2011, 9:3 doi:10.1186/1617-9625-9-3Published: 24 January 2011
Tobacco control efforts in Japan have lagged other high income countries, possibly because the Japanese government partially owns Japan Tobacco, Inc. In Japan, tobacco use is still often regarded as an issue of manners rather than an issue of health. Information about tobacco is available, but may not always be accurate. We explored what information Japanese consumers might access by reading popular Japanese books about tobacco.
We searched Amazon.com Japan using the term "Tobacco", identifying the top 12 books by "relevance" and "bestselling." We eliminated duplicates and books not concerned with tobacco use and classified the remaining books as pro-smoking, anti-smoking, or neutral. We reviewed the pro-smoking books, published 2004-2009, and analyzed examples of misinformation by theme.
Pro-smoking popular books conveyed five types of misinformation: doubt about science; suggestions that smoking increased health, longevity, virility, etc.; trivializing tobacco's effects; attacking public health advocates/authorities; and linking tobacco use with authenticity, history, or civil rights. At least one book was authored by a former Japan Tobacco employee; another used a popular Japan Tobacco advertising phrase.
Creating doubt and confusion about tobacco serves tobacco industry interests and re-creates a strategy developed by US tobacco interests more than 40 years ago. Japanese readers may be misled by texts such as those reviewed. Tobacco control and public health advocates in Japan and globally should expose and counter such misinformation. "Naming and shaming" may be effective.