Many cultural guidebooks contend that eating while walking is considered rude in Japan. That’s not entirely accurate. Sure, walking down the street while munching on a hamburger will make you look gluttonous, maybe laughably so, but no one’s going to get offended by your mobile meal.
What will upset some people, though, is smoking while walking, and not just because of the horrible stink and health effects of secondhand smoke. Puffing away while moving down the sidewalk can be downright dangerous to nearby kids and the wheelchair-bound, as this manga artist’s illustration reminds smokers.
Twitter user Sibakiyo used to be a nurse, but now works as an illustrator and manga author. Drawing inspiration from her home life, Sibakiyo’s manga often features stand-ins for her husband, four-year-old daughter, and the artist herself. Some of the comic strips are sweet and heartwarming, such as this one in which the couple’s daughter stands on her tiptoes to make it seem like she’s getting bigger.
シバキヨ (@sibakiyo3) April 12, 2015
That’s not to say that everything is smiles and sunshine in Sibakiyo’s comics, though. Recently, she got online commenters talking when she tweeted this one-panel piece of artwork, in which she says “If you smoke while walking, this is how it seems to parents of small children.”
歩きタバコしている人は分からないかもだけど、小さな子どもがいる親からしたら本当にこんな感じ！！ 近くなくても10メートル先に歩きタバコの人がいるだけで本当に恐怖です(>_<) マジで歩きタバコは止めてください<(_ _)> http://t.co/3QVItPjoxo—
シバキヨ (@sibakiyo3) April 23, 2015
“That’s really how we see it, and it’s seriously frightening,” her illustrated avatar adds.
Comparing a lit cigarette to a brandished knife might initially seem like a bit of an exaggeration, but Sibakiyo has a point. For young children, a pedestrian’s cigarette is at face-level, and an errant clump of ash can cause painful burns and injuries to the skin or eyes.
While good manners in Japan dictate not smoking while walking, an alarmingly large number of smokers don’t have the maturity or self-restraint to wait until they arrive home in order to indulge in a way that doesn’t share their vice with passersby. Many frustrated non-smokers have voiced their agreement with Sibakiyo’s sentiment, and even one exasperated smoker joined in, saying “Smoking while walking shows a lack of common sense.”
It’s not just parents and small children who’re bothered by the inconsiderate practice, either. One commenter pointed out that people in wheelchairs also sit at about the height of a walking adult’s hand, and they too are in danger of being singed or catching a faceful of secondhand smoke.
▼ “Yeah, but I really want to smoke right now” isn’t a valid excuse.
Even adults who are aren’t wheelchair-bound would appreciate the consideration of smokers not puffing away as they walk. Urban and suburban Japan’s reliance on public transportation means streams of people walking in close proximity for long periods of time as they make their way to and from train and subway stations, and even if there’s no one directly behind the smoker, that cloud of cigarette smoke can easily hang in the air long enough to choke someone trailing even 10 meters (32.8 feet) behind.
Some municipalities have enacted formal bans on pedestrian smoking, with violations punishable by a fine. Enforcement is still lax, however, prompting Sibakiyo to voice her complaint in manga form. Hopefully this appeal to smokers’ ability to think of something other than their own pleasure will prove effective, but if not, and least one other anti-smoker has a more dramatic idea for a solution.