The pallor of smoke that covers so many restaurants and bars in Japan may become a thing of the past.
If you’re from a country with strict smoking regulations, it can be sort of startling to walk into a restaurant in modern, cosmopolitan Tokyo and be asked if you’d like a seat in the smoking or non-smoking section. And while there are a small handful of restaurants that are smoke-free, they’re vastly outnumbered by eateries that allow unrestricted smoking at each and every seat.
But though Japanese laws tend to be much more tolerant of smoking than those in many Western countries, some of the legislators in Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare think it’s time for a change. In particular, the ministry has become extremely concerned about the effects of second-hand smoke, which by some estimates is responsible for the deaths of 15,000 non-smokers per year in Japan as a root cause of cancer, coronary disease, and other ailments.
In response, the ministry has begun an investigation into the possibility of implementing an indoor smoking ban that would forbid smoking inside of restaurants, bars, hotels, and other service industry buildings. Violators would be required to pay a fine to the building’s management.
Other options being considered are prohibiting indoor smoking in government buildings and horse race tracks, and extending the smoking ban not just to the interiors of schools and medical facilities, but to their outdoor premises as well.
“Japan lags behind other developed countries in addressing the issue of passive smoking,” said the ministry in a statement. While its members are still discussing the proposal both internally and with other governmental organizations, its proponents say that they may be able to introduce a bill before the Diet as early as next year, and hope to have stricter regulations go into effect before the start of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.