The ashtrays in front of Japanese convenience stores aren’t there for people to smoke around.
There’s hardly anything that isn’t awesome about going to Japanese convenience stores. They’re open 24 hours a day, and they’re constantly stocked with all sorts of tasty pre-made meals, satisfying snacks, and an array of beverages that runs the gamut from hot tea to ice-cold beer.
There is one thing that can sort of mar the experience, though, and that’s when you have to pass through a cloud of foul-smelling cigarette smoke to get in the door. See, a lot of convenience stores have an ashtray set up near their entrance, and often groups of smokers will congregate around them, spewing second-hand smoke in a radius around themselves as they indulge their nicotine cravings.
ますたー (@qmanews) February 02, 2017
Passing through that haze on their way through the door is a pretty disgusting situation for non-smokers. In 2015, the Japan Society for Tobacco Control asked convenience stores to remove ashtrays in hope of making the area outside the shop entrances a less convenient place to light up, and the idea is getting increased consideration in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. The Japanese government is already mulling other ways to bring Japan’s comparatively lax anti-smoking measures closer to those of many Western nations before the Games start and bring the world’s attention with them, and many are saying that this is a good opportunity for convenience stores to get rid of the ashtrays outside their buildings.
But unbeknownst to many, the reason many convenience stores have ashtrays outside isn’t because they want to create a place for smokers to relax and puff away. The original reason for the trays is simply to give smoking pedestrians a place to put out their cigarettes before they come into the store to do their shopping. Some convenience stores even emphasize this by placing signs near the ash trays saying “Please do not smoke here.”
Unfortunately, many smokers see the ashtrays and immediately assume that it designates the area as an outdoor smoking lounge. With anti-smoking sentiments growing in Japanese society, 7-Eleven has said it is planning to begin removing ashtrays from in front of its stores.
▼ This branch already has, in addition to slapping a “No smoking” sticker on the window smokers used to gather in front of.
Fellow convenience store chain Family Mart says it plans to do likewise in communities that have ordinances prohibiting pedestrians from smoking while walking, which should please customers who don’t have “lungful of second-hand smoke” on their shopping list.