Photo/IllutrationA man tries Japan Tobacco Inc.'s Ploom Tech, a device that heats and vaporizes tobacco leaves. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Around 96 billion cigarettes will be sold in Japan in 2017, a 9.6-percent drop from the previous year as health-conscious lifestyles continue to spread around the nation, Japan Tobacco Inc. (JT) has forecast.

It would be the first time for cigarette sales to drop below 100 billion since JT was privatized in 1985, according to the forecast released on Feb. 6.

The company said it expects the decrease in sales to push its operating profit to 560 billion yen ($4.9 billion) in 2017, down 5.6 percent from the previous year.

Japan's shrinking population and spread of electronic cigarettes have also had a negative effect on cigarette sales.