A Japanese doctor has apologised after saying that people should smoke themselves to an early death to save the country money on elderly care, according to his hospital.
"It is clear that medical costs will increase if non-smoking spreads," the doctor said last week, according to Ida Hospital in Kawasaki City. "It's better that people smoke a lot and die early."
The man, whose name has been withheld, made the comment at a gathering of doctors, the hospital said.
"The hospital president has reprimanded him severely," said Tetsuya Yamamoto, a public relations official of the hospital.
"He said it was a careless remark and sincerely regrets it," the official said, adding that he was being sarcastic as the doctor is a smoker himself.
His comments angered activists.
"It was an outrageous remark that should not come from a doctor who is supposed to protect people's lives and health," Bungaku Watanabe, who heads an anti-smoking group, said in a statement.
If you listen to old radio show you will often hear ads for cigarettes and a line like "9 out of 10 doctors recommend XXXXXXXX for your smoking pleasure!"
But these days, you can't make statements like this. This is equivalent to:
"The country is poor because too many old people are living too long"
"The world is overpopulated because medical cures keep being invented"