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Before banning, take a deep breath

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OPINION: I started smoking in Japan as a 22-year-old teacher. Doing otherwise at that time, in that country, would have marked me out as an oddball.

For men at least, smoking was almost compulsory. It was certainly ubiquitous. We smoked in the school staffroom so unapologetically it was left to students to empty the ashtrays.

There are estimated to be 500,000 cigarette vending machines in Japan – and, while Starbucks won't tolerate it, until recently you could still smoke to your lungs' discontent at McDonald's and KFC.

On the bullet train from Kyoto to Tokyo, a fellow overseas teacher and I once got through a packet each during the 140-minute ride. My smoking habit continued apace and unabated for the following 15 years – and I loved every drag.

* Addictions counsellor is struggling to quit
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* Superfad: Vaping evangelists explain why they swear by e-cigs
* Vapers tend to return to cigarettes - research
* Ministry throws support behind vaping as a way to quit smoking

When I finally knocked it on the head – in 2006, around the same time I stopped drinking like a maniac – it was the hardest thing I've ever done.........

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