From April 1, Kanagawa Prefecture enacted Japan's first ordinance to protect people from passive smoke. Its provisions call for a total ban on smoking in such places as government offices, schools and hospitals.
Sensing a shift in the way the wind is blowing, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has proposed a bill in the National Diet to ban smoking in the workplace, which it hopes to get enacted by next year. It's entirely possible this may lead to an eventual ban on smoking in commercial areas such as restaurants and hotels.
Discussing the issue in Spa! (Apr 13), journalist Takao Saito -- who coined the term "anti-smoking fascism" in a 1999 magazine article -- takes note that growing numbers of "Ken'en (smoke-hating) Monsters," feel increasingly empowered to confront smokers.
As one idea of the remarkable lengths to separate smokers and nonsmokers, a 21-year-old university student tells the magazine that one of his friends even keeps separate folders in his cell phone directory, with the phone numbers of smokers in one and nonsmokers in the other.
Or this: "Before our marriage, my husband's mother said to me, 'A daughter in law who smokes is a birdbrain, even if she gives birth to children," sighs a 29-year-old housewife.
And this: A 33-year-old man employed by an event organizer was informed by his supervisor, "Most people who smoke are low earners with a low academic record. I don't want any working for me."
A 48-year-old employee of a foodstuffs manufacturer, meanwhile, relates how his teenage daughter went after him with a vengeance.
"She's going through a rebellious streak, and turned into an anti-smoking monster," the man relates. "She'll screech at people who smoke while walking on the street, saying they're polluting the atmosphere, and complain that in the U.S., people who can't quit smoking are treated as losers. When we do the laundry, she becomes hysterical if her clothes are put in the machine together with mine.
"She's even got my wife joining in on the act. She tallied up my estimated total outlays for cigarettes over the past 22 years and raises this as the reason why our house is a rental."
A sidebar at the end of the article lists some of the more extreme examples of anti-smokers on the warpath in foreign countries. Last December in Haifa, Israel, actress Orly Zilberschatz puffed on stage for about 30 minutes during a production of David Mamet's "The Old Neighborhood." The theater was hit with a class-action lawsuit -- said to be the first of its kind in the world -- for exposing the audience (as well as other actors in the play) to a health threat.
Israel's National Council for the Prevention of Smoking demanded each of the 3,800 theater goers who have already attended the play receive compensation of 1,000 New Israeli Shekels (about 25,000 yen or $270), making a total claim equivalent to over 91 million yen.
Unless people stand up to this anti-smoking fascism, argues Saito, there's no telling which of our freedoms will be next to go. To drive home his point, he emulates the argument of anti-Nazi theologician Martin Niemoller (1892-1984), who is credited with the famous dictum, "They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist…"
"First we ban smokers without sound evidence," says Saito. "If this is tolerated, then next we'll ban the drinkers. And before long, it might come to the point that our very right to free speech is suppressed based on the logic that it's 'harmful.' If the anti-smoking movement is allowed to keep running amok, it won't stop with the smokers."© Japan Today