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Thursday, 26 February, 1998, 09:52 GMT
Court rules Hashimoto not obliged to stop smoking

A Japanese court on Thursday rejected a lawsuit filed by five antismokers asking Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto to stop smoking and to pay 50,000 yen in damages for remarks that encourage smoking, the Japanese news agency Kyodo reported.

The five plaintiffs had asked that Hashimoto, a self-confessed heavy smoker, to stop smoking during his term as prime minister and also sought 500,000 yen from the government on claims that its laws on tobacco operations were unconstitutional.

Presiding Judge Tatsuki Inada said in his ruling that smoking is known to be bad for the health of smokers and those around them.

But smoking by adults is permitted by law, and even a person in the position of prime minister is not obliged to stop smoking, he said.

According to the suit filed last March, Hashimoto's remarks during a trip to Singapore in January 1997 violated article 25 of the constitution which says: "All people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living." During the Singapore trip, the plaintiffs quoted Hashimoto as saying that "taxes on cigarettes are a big revenue source amid our country's fiscal crisis.

I intend to smoke as much as possible, to the extent that it does not damage my health or become a burden to medical insurance finances." The plaintiffs claimed that Hashimoto, who was once welfare minister, must know about the detrimental effects of smoking and had failed to promote policies against smoking.

"He should have set an example against smoking in the way US President Bill Clinton has done, but instead he has promoted smoking and obstructed antismoking movements in the country," the plaintiffs said.

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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