Known for taking a puff or two himself, Finance Minister Taro Aso has cast doubt on the connection between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer.

Responding to a question from Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) member Hodaka Maruyama at the Lower House Financial Affairs Committee on Feb. 21, Aso touched upon the declining number of smokers.

"Lung cancer is without a doubt increasing," Aso said. "I hear from various people who question whether there is really a relationship with cigarettes."

Aso went on to encourage lawmakers’ use of electronic cigarettes while at work.

"How about proposing the smoking of such cigarettes in the Diet?" Aso asked. "I believe heated debate might decrease a bit because (e-cigarettes) would help calm down irritable moods."

According to research by the National Cancer Center Japan, male smokers have a 4.4-fold greater possibility of developing lung cancer than non-smokers, while female smokers have a 2.8-fold greater possibility.

A Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare expert panel compiled a white paper on smoking in summer 2016 that said "there is sufficient evidence to assume a causal relationship" between smoking and lung cancer.