No yen for nicotine

THE JAPANESE who are among the heaviest smokers in the industrialised world -- 36 per cent of the over-18 population smoke -- are being lured away from tobacco by a programme that sets the yen as bait. Several companies now pay bonuses ranging from 7,000 yen (Rs 28,000) to 40,000 yen (Rs 1.6 lakh) to those employees who kick the habit. The companies benefit in terms of reduced health insurance costs, fewer payments for tobacco-related ailments and a drop in absenteeism. A ministry of health and welfare report praises the programme extravagantly and encourages others to adopt it.