executive impact

Smoke Free Systems

By Chris Betros

A common sight outside office buildings in Japan is smokers standing around having a quick puff and various times of the day. This doesn’t exactly boost productivity, considering the time it takes to go outside and then come back inside after a smoke. Other companies have smoking rooms which are not only smelly but bad for the air as well.

Swedish company Smoke Free Systems has the answer. For the past 20 years, it has been improving the environment at workplaces by handling tobacco smoking in a new, better way, eliminating passive smoking. It does this by providing smoking cabins for the office leisure area.

The cabins which can accommodate from four to eight smokers immediately clean the air. Tobacco smoke is cleaned in an effective filter system, especially designed for this purpose. This removes 99.9995% of the particles that are the most harmful for humans to inhale. This is in the same class as clinically clean areas with regard to air quality. The gases are cleaned 100% in Smoke Free Systems’ patented charcoal filter.

The unique fireproof Ash Handling System (AHS) ensures safe disposal of ash and cigarette ends. As well as dealing with the smell it also eliminates any risk of fire. Having undergone rigorous testing, the system is now recommended by the Swedish National Testing and Research Institute. It has even been tested to assess how it would perform in the event of sabotage or arson and even in such extreme circumstances the system has proved to be incredibly safe.

In October, the company in Europe changed its name to QleanAir Scandinavia and the Japan office will follow suit in February. The company has had a presence in Japan for three years. Heading the operation is Canadian Glen Shimizu. After graduating from the University of British Columbia with a degree in commerce, he worked for Itochu for six years in Vancouver and then got a Master’s degree at Waseda University. After that, he joined a Canadian lumber company, then came to Japan 17 years ago. He became president of Smoke Free Systems KK two years ago.

Why is the company changing its name to QleanAir?

For the past 20 years, we focused primarily on smoker protection. Now we have products that are going to be released in the near future that are not related to tobacco. If you can clean tobacco smoke, you can clean the air in any environment. It is a re-focus on the core technology being the delivery of clean air solutions.

What is the image of the company?

We’re not an organization that promotes tobacco. Our policy is to protect non-smokers from the effects of indirect tobacco smoke. Our system does this better and more completely than any other product in the world. We’ve been selling successfully throughout Europe and we are in 11 different nations. We have sold over 5,000 units.

Is Japan the only market you are in outside Europe?

Yes. Lots of countries need our system but Japanese companies are willing to pay for the service.

How do the smoking cabins work?

They use a filtration system different from smoking rooms which are always dirty and smelly. If you walk inside this cabin, take a sniff, there is no tobacco smell. Even after years of use, there are no stains and no smell. This is because the smoke goes directly into the filtration system and when it comes out, the air is cleaner than the actual air in the original office. For the ashtray, a pipe sucks the air into the filters and cleans it.

They are very eco-friendly. Energy consumption is roughly equivalent to about 2,000 yen a month. When a cabin is not being used, it goes into power-saving mode. When somebody walks in, it goes into operational mode.

How many sizes do you have?

We lease three different sizes – for four, six and eight persons. It is basically a three-year contract and we provide full servicing. The rental list prices are 75,000, 98,000 and 128, 000 per month for three sizes. We also sell them if a client wishes. A six-person cabin is 4 million yen.

What is the advantage for companies to have smoking cabins?

You often see employees outside their offices smoking, which is a loss in productivity time. In terms of behavior, if your smoking spot is outdoors, then employees will smoke more and they’ll smoke longer. So in a way, our cabin is a management tool because you can put it right in the office where it will be seen. Employees tend to smoke for less time because they feel their bosses are watching. Most of our clients put the cabins in the casual zone where people get together for coffee, or beside vending machines.

How many clients do you have in Japan?

We are nearing 200 units and our largest customer has 12. Our clients include Nissan, Hitachi, NEC, NTV, TV Tokyo, Royal Park Shiodome Hotel, Tokyo American Club and lots more. We are in the Diet building, as well as the DPJ and LDP headquarters.

How do you market the company?

We started by telemarketing and still do some of it. We explain what we provide and we get a roughly 10% positive response. We also work with the design community, project manager community and real estate agents. Potential clients may come here for a demonstration or they ask to visit companies which already have cabins.

Where do you see potential for growth?

Our target is offices, hotels and public spaces with limited attendees. However, as restaurants go toward non-smoking, there is potential for us. There appears to be a large market for us in the pachinko parlor for both sexes; however, women find it easier to enter a women-only cabin.

© Japan Today

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Sounds like an excellent system. A shame that companies need to spend money on something like this. If they don`t the smokers waste an hour a day going outside to smoke. They should also encourage staff to quit and have free chewing gum and lots of snacks around so they get fat.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

What if the bosses are heavy smokers themselves ? I think many Japanese prefer to smoke at their desks to smoke outside like they used to. And many employees will enjoy smoking without concentrating on their work, decreasing their productivity. On the other hand, this system will surely work fine in restaurants, theaters and meeting places where smokers and non-smokers gather together.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This university is now smoke free; the addicts have to stand out in the street, which can't be pleasant on a cold, windy day like today. If a company installs these cubicles they may get sued in the future for allowing/encouraging their workers to kill themselves. If loss of working time is a problem they can deduct a few hours' of pay a week from the smokers, or have them work longer to make up the time lost.

Besides, the people in these smoking cubicles always look like some kind of zoo exhibit to me.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Help the poor downtrodden smoker! Agree it is miserable outside in winter.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Even if people go outside to smoke, they still stink up the air and blow it for all the non-smokers... Halleluya for the system to help protect innocent bystanders. They should make this system mandatory in restaurants and Cafes.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Ah, smoking. What a disgusting sport. If folks must smoke though then kudos to those who seek to make it a little less unpleasant for those who dont. Smoking should definetely be banned in salesmens cars during workhours though! A fellow lost out big the other day when he visited me because I didnt want him stinking up my office for anything longer than a short salespitch. To be honest though I wasnt going to buy his product anyway but smelling like he had rubbed himself with an ashtray before he walked in was most unappealing. They should make a portable version of these cabins that salespersons can wear.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Even if these do work as advertised the smokers still stink. On the trains it is disgusting.

Also this does not cure lung cancer so the company and society is going to have to pay for the idiots who continue to smoke knowing that it will give them lung cancer. Maybe what the company can do is charge 1000 yen to enter this machine and use the Yen to pay down the health bills that come from smoking.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why not? We have indoor toilets so why not have indoor smoking booths. :)

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

sad that company have spend money on these machines for a bad habbit that not everyone has. This is a BAD HABBIT that all us (NON SMOKERS) have to suffer. I find it funny that in order to accomodate these "smokers" we and companies have to re-adjust things in order to make it easier for them. Shouldn't it be the other way around?!?! Plus also smokers cost company thousands of dollars a year from all their "smoke break" while the other non smokers are at work slaving away. I am with Zurcronium smokers will always stink!!! Even if the air is filtered in the rooms the smoke will stick to their clothes and then we will all have to smell these stinky people. I hate it specially in the morning walking to the station and on the my way to work on the trains.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

As long as the Japanese govt owns a large percentage of JT there will never be serious anti-smoking education & legislative restrictions in Japan. Even Hong Kong has outlawed smoking indoors.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

PLEASE PUT THIS UP AT RYOGOKU STATION. There is a smoking area that I have to hold my breath against everytime as those stupid smokers puff away and the wind carries in my direction as I wait for the danged traffic signal to go green. It is really horrible.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Disgusting habit.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Disgusting, selfish habit. It is an addiction, pure and simple. I look forward to the day when this destructive disease is no longer tolerated and catered to.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

And for the record, while I am not a smoker now, I did used to smoke for a year or so when I was in my early 20's; quitting was very difficult, but I managed it. Anybody can quit; just takes a bit of will power.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

As long as the Japanese govt owns a large percentage of JT there will never be serious anti-smoking education & legislative restrictions in Japan.


Japan also has mind-boggingly low prices on cigarettes. Where many, many countries (even Italy, and Spain) toughen their anti-smoking stance considerably, Japan keeps at it, smoking away as much as they can. If they want to raise taxes in this country, they might as well start by doubling the taxes on tobacco. Let the smokers suffer I say. A funny thing about Japan is that smoking seems to be like in the US in the 50's - a "cool" thing to do. Fortunately, that image went away in most places but the insular mindset of the Japanese public didn't get this. They still keep at it, probaly feeling all independent, staning there with a cig and a horrendous, over-sweetened canned coffee.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"removes 99.9995% of the particles that are the most harmful for humans to inhale" - after they've already been inhaled by other humans

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Disgusting, selfish habit. It is an addiction, pure and simple.

There is no doubt that it is an addiction, but it is not "pure and simple" - it is also somewhat pleasurable, and very much so with a good cigar. There is after all a reason why the native Americans started using it centuries ago - because they got something pleasurable out of it.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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