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Japan's cigarettes no longer single-coin in digital-payment age

Psychological barrier of 500 yen becomes thing of the past

Japan Tobacco has started to raise cigarette prices past 500 yen, breaking an industrial taboo. (Photo by Shiho Miyajima)

TOKYO -- Japan's tobacco companies have long held on to an unwritten rule: never raise the cost of a pack of cigarettes more than a single coin.

That invisible barrier of 500 yen ($4.79), the denomination of the country's most valuable coin, allowed for easy transactions. A consumer could walk into a shop, slap loose change on the counter and walk away with a pack.

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