Put away the chewing gum and nicotine patches. Japanese smokers are learning that all they need to kick the smoking habit is a reminder of death’s steady approach right on the screen of their iPod.

Osaka-based game software and graphics developer Proge Inc. has created a free software application to help smokers roughly determine how many years they have left on this planet based on their age, the number of cigarettes they smoke each day and how many years they have been slaves to nicotine.

Users input the data into the “Death Meter” and a countdown until their likely demise appears on the screen over the image of mocking Grim Reaper with a cigarette between his boney fingers. The countdown can be slowed by inputting a smaller daily cigarette consumption figure, but that requires lighting up fewer coffin nails each day.

More Japanese are now trying to go cold turkey after prices for a pack of smokes surged by as much as 140 yen (USD 1.70) on October 1 to account for the largest-ever hike in the tobacco tax.

Takayuki Suda, an engineer living in Nagoya, has been trying to cut back on his 15-cigarette per day habit after prices shot up, so gave the Death Meter a try.

“It’s an interesting game, but not nearly as scary as a doctor telling me I have to stop smoking,” said Suda.

Smoking remains popular in Japan with nearly 40% of Japanese men lighting up, according to a recent survey by Japan Tobacco Co. Many of these men will likely keep puffing away despite higher prices and the Death Meter countdown on their iPods.

“I can’t imagine work breaks without lighting up,” said Suda, taking a long thoughtful drag on his Mild Seven Extra Light.

Tick . . . tock.

Jim Hawe

Jim Hawe

I am a freelance writer and journalist based in Tokyo. In my free time I like to play the drums and read manga until they kick me out of the convenience store. I am also on a quest to find the best cup of ice coffee in Tokyo (any suggestions?).