Kanagawa Prefecture is not a good place to be if you are fond of tobacco. You can't smoke on the street, or in a taxi or in a public building. And now they're going after the restaurants.
On April 1, 2010, Japan's first regulation requiring separation of smokers from non-smokers at indoor facilities, went into force. Those found in violation of the new law can be fined up to 50,000 yen.
Now almost half a year later, Flash (Sept 21) follows up on the implementation of the "Kanagawa Prefectural Government Ordinance on Prevention of Exposure to Secondhand Smoke in Public Facilities." The ordinance requires a total ban on smoking in "Class 1" facilities, which include hospitals, schools, theaters, libraries, government offices, public baths and so on.
"Class 2" facilities, which include food and beverage facilities, hotels and ryokan, game centers, karaoke shops, etc, having a floor area larger than 100 square meters (apart from their kitchen), are given a choice between imposing a complete ban or separately designated areas for smokers and non-smokers.
Then come the "Special Class 2" establishments of under 100 square meters, as well as those which operate under the Law Controlling Public Morals, such as love hotels, mahjongg parlors, pachinko shops, etc, which have been served notice that they have an "obligation" to comply with the ordinance. So while violators cannot be fined as yet, the ordinance will be reviewed every three years, and it's entirely possible these businesses will come under the same restrictions in the future.
Cracking down on smokers may be bad for business. When similar anti-smoking regulations were introduced incrementally in the UK, Flash notes that pub closures rose 14-fold in just two years, from 102 in 2005 to 1,409 in 2007.
"Even my regulars don't come in like they used to," the female proprietor of a Yokohama eatery complains to the magazine. A wage earner in his 40s tells Flash, "Thanks to the law, I do more of my drinking at home now."
Caught in a bind between the business recession and the new ordinance, Kanagawa business operators must lay out funds for partitions, ventilation ducts, "air curtains" and so on, which can easily run from 1 to 5 million yen with installation fees worked in -- and they resent being saddled with unwelcome expenses at a time when business conditions are already so bad.
According to the results of a survey conducted by Cross Marketing KK, the new smoking restrictions represented the second largest factor in the decline at three types of food and beverage establishments after household economy measures. The reason for not patronizing was 29% at family restaurants (as opposed to 43.9% who refrained due to budgetary reasons); 36.3% at fast food restaurants (as opposed to 38.5% to save money); and 32.2% at cafes and coffee shops (versus 38%). Hotels and ryokan, which have were affected the least (6.2%).
The survey also asked 1,000 subjects if their frequency of patronizing establishments had changed since Kanagawa's imposition of the anti-smoking ordinance. Only a tiny figure said they are more likely to visit a establishment with restrictions in force -- under 5% for all types -- whereas those responding that they had curtailed their patronage due to the new law ranged from 49.9% for family restaurants to 65% for "izakaya" (Japanese pubs).
In other findings, 65.4% of respondents were in agreement that the ordinance was likely to create hardships for small food and beverage businesses; 61% said it has become more difficult for them to find venues able to accommodate mixed groups of smokers and non-smokers; and 51.7% agreed that "If smokers showed more consideration, there would have been no need for such a law in the first place."© Japan Today