Japanese Life: Smoking Ban Is Right Around The Corner

Japanese Life: Ban On Smoking Is Right Around The Corner
Source: A-1 Pictures

One of my favorite anime this year is Wotokoi: Love is Hard for an Otaku. It’s main character, Hirotako Nifuji, is an avid smoker. He smokes in restaurants, in specific areas at work, and all over Tokyo. As an American, it’s still jarring to see this happening—we haven’t had smoking in (most) bars, restaurants, and workspaces for nearly two decades. For smokers, Tokyo must seem like a paradise, but that’s all about to change.

Tokyo’s Metropolitan Assembly passed a measure that will ban smoking in most public spaces—most notably bars, restaurants, & schools—in April of 2020, two months before the start of the 2020 Olympic Games.

The measure itself is much more stringent than an upcoming national bill. The Tokyo bill covers 84% of restaurants compared to just 45% for the national bill. The smoking ban looks to protect those who are deemed vulnerable such as school children and restaurant employees. The measure bans smoking in daycares as well as kindergartens through high school.

The bill itself is not all-encompassing, however. Areas outside of schools, hospitals, and government offices can have designated smoking areas. There are even less stringent measures afforded to hotels and, mysteriously, gyms.

In terms of restaurants and bars, patrons will still be able to smoke, but in a separate room where food or drink cannot be served. The room also needs to ensure smoke has no way of escaping. Also, if a restaurant is family-operated (thus skirting employee guidelines), the owners can decide whether to be smoking or non-smoking.

Smokers and restaurant owners who do not abide by the rule will face fines up to ¥50,000 (~$455).

But in terms of the national law, even larger loopholes exist. If a restaurant is under 100 square meters, smoking can be allowed. Additionally, any bar or restaurant that makes under ¥50 Million (~$452,000) will be exempt from the ordinance. This is a huge change for Japan, which in a 2017 WHO report, ranked among the lowest tier of countries in terms of smoke-free policies.

The ordinance also does not mention or dissuade e-cigarettes, so for the time being, those will still be permitted nearly everywhere.

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