The corporate health insurance unions of 18 major companies are setting up a consortium to offer remote outpatient treatment to help people quit smoking.
The move comes as the unions, faced with financial difficulties amidst an ageing society, need to reduce high smoking-related medical costs, according to a report in The Mainichi.
The unions joining the consortium include those for Nissan Motor, Japan Airlines, Recruit Holdings, Nomura Securities, Kao and Konica Minolta. Their combined membership totals around 583,000.
The group aims to cut the smoking rate by 5% by 2020, when the Olympics and Paralympics will be held in Japan, reducing the number of smokers among those insured by company health coverage schemes by 30,000.
In July this year, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare for the first time approved of completely remote outpatient treatment for smokers, which does not require face-to-face examinations by doctors, as a health care programme as long as it is provided by insurers such as corporate health insurance unions. The latest development marks the first trial of this remote treatment to help people give up smoking.
Mr Yoshio Nakaie, General Manager of Uchida Yoko Health Insurance Association and organiser of the consortium, says the group intends to use information technology to realise health care projects that would be impossible for a single union to implement. He added: "Reducing the smoking rate by 5% will have a huge impact on society."