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Japan's smoking rate falls below 20% for first time

Biggest decline seen among people in their 20s

Japan's health ministry wants new restrictions on smoking in place before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

TOKYO -- Fewer Japanese are puffing cigarettes, a survey by the health ministry shows, suggesting that a greater awareness of the risks associated with lighting up is changing a country once regarded as a smoker's paradise.

The smoking rate fell below 20% for the first time, with only 19.8% of adults reported smoking daily or on some days in the health ministry's 2016 survey published Tuesday, down 1.8 percentage points from 2013. The ministry interprets the decline as a sign that the Japanese public is giving greater thought to lung cancer and other health concerns.

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