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New crackdown on smoking spurs search for loopholes

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From Apri1 1, a new "revised health promotion law" came into effect nationwide, which essentially banned indoor smoking at places serving foods and beverages.

Concurrent to this, a Tokyo ordinance aimed at protecting people from secondary smoke went into effect, with stricter provisions than the national law.

"The national law gives a break to small-scale food and beverage establishments (capitalized at less than 50 million yen or with less than 100 square meters of customer-use floorspace)," Toshihiro Yatabe, a notary public, tells Weekly Playboy (Aug 31). "These are referred to as establishments where smoking is permitted. But in Tokyo the rules are much stricter and irrespective of capital investment or floorspace -- or if they employ even one part-time worker -- smoking is banned in principle.

"So the ordinance applies to roughly 84% of the establishments in Tokyo, and violators can be penalized."

Unfortunately, loopholes to allow smoking still exist. If smoking and non-smoking areas are separated by barriers that extend all the way to the ceiling, for example, or if exhaust devices are installed, exceptions are made to the rule.

Most of the larger family restaurant and izakaya chains, such as Kushikatsu Tanaka, simply banned smoking outright. Others though, such as Sandaime Torimero and Miraizaka, which belong to the Watami Group, set up separate smoking rooms. In the case of Shirokiya, 85% of its 1,632 outlets have separate rooms set aside for from three to six smokers of cigarettes or e-cigarettes.

"For the tiny drinking shops here in Shinjuku's Golden Gai, not permitting smoking would be a matter of life and death," says Fumiaki Tobayama, who heads the local merchants association.

Fortunately, these establishments have found a loophole in the law. They can apply to obtain the status of "facility operated for the purpose of smoking."

"If they qualify -- giving them the same status as a 'cigar bar' -- then smoking will be permitted. There are three criteria for recognition: the first is that tobacco be sold on the premises," explains Yatabe, who adds that payment of a 3,000 yen fee is required, followed by a visit by an inspector from the Kanto legal affairs bureau. "The second is that minors not be admitted either as employees or customers. And the third requirement is full meals -- consisting of a main dish accompanied by rice, bread and noodles -- not be served."

"It's not that we want to promote ourselves as places where smoking is permitted, nor are we against measure to protect customers from secondary smoke," says the aforementioned Tobayama. "But we do feel that the law as it is now is a bit too heavy-handed for such small establishments."

According to the Kanto legal affairs bureau, compared with 240 businesses that applied for the status of operating for the purpose of smoking in 2018, the number in 2019 rose 7.5-fold to 1,800. And from January through the end of June 2020, the figure rose again to 2,800.

So it seems that one side-effect of the new antismoking law and ordinance is that more businesses are modifying their scope of activities specifically to attract smokers.

The operator of one such business noted unhappily that because of restrictions banning smokers from so many places, "the problem of discarded cigarette butts on the street has become severe. So by providing smokers with a place where they are welcome, we hope to contribute to better smoking manners and fewer violations."

Japan may have put the wheels in motion, but when it comes to the standoff between smokers and non-smokers, it's still got a long way to go before it gets things right.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

25 Comments
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Blanket ban for Pete’s sake. Just do it it’s 2020 not 1920!

8 ( +16 / -8 )

Saw a news show that claimed 60% success for people who want to stop smoking by taking a trip under their mind altering drug, with a few weeks of counseling before and after the 6 hour "trip". One of the places doing this type of study is Johns Hopkins University:

https://hub.jhu.edu/2019/10/14/60-minutes-anderson-cooper-psychedelics/

Carine McLaughlin was a smoker for 46 years and tried everything to quit before signing up for a hallucinogenic experience at Johns Hopkins University, as part of a clinical trial. She said the experience was awful, but she hasn't had a cigarette since

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I go into a local Chinese greasy spoon to eat gyoza and when I come out my clothes and hair reek of cigarettes. I can see why they don't ban smoking though -- customers who smoke tend to linger at the table longer and order more alcohol, which is where the profits are. In fact, if it weren't for their sales of beer and Shaoxing wine, the place would probably go bust.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

@Kobe White Bar Owner,

Totally agree!

The right of employees to work in a smoke free environment must be protected.

Given the Covid pandemic this should not even be a matter for debate.

10 ( +14 / -4 )

The right of employees to work in a smoke free environment must be protected.

It always has been. Its called "finding a new crappy job". That's cause anyone so exposed is working a crappy job.

But if that's not enough wearing masks has become so ubiquitous that I doubt one rated to filter cigarette smoke would get much notice.

As with plastic bags and straws I once again feel that people are missing the REAL culprits poisoning us and our planet.

-2 ( +7 / -9 )

There are always some people eager to tell child labourers, victims of physical abuse, racism, sexual harassment, and unhealthy working conditions that it is their fault for failing to "find a new crappy job".

10 ( +13 / -3 )

And enforcement? I hear crickets.....was that a tumble weed going past? It was moving to fast for it to be of government origin.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

You’d better had hated and fought the corona viruses with the same intensity instead of us tobacco smokers.

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

Sven, So you enjoy the thought that your nicotine drug habit is poisoning the nice staff waiting on you?

7 ( +10 / -3 )

I asked Dad many times to stop smoking. He claimed that he could stop anytime he wanted to, but I guess he never wanted to. He finally stopped when he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Maybe if I had tried harder I could have gotten him to stop sooner. We used to spend hours and hours drinking coffee, while he told me about his time in World War II. I attended the ceremony where he got medals from the King for his activities fighting the fascists. That is another story.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

@1glenn

sorry about your old man. I used to work with drug addicts and some could kick smack/coke/heroin but rarely smoking..

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Blanket ban for Pete’s sake. Just do it it’s 2020 not 1920!

They can't, J-Gov owns the tobacco farms and they would lose the tax they collect on all the addicts.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Of course.

Smoking customers drink more.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Smoking relies on suckers and those suckers hanging off the end of the cigarette are stinking up every place they go, end that filthy habbit for the sake of everyone else who has had enough of going home stinking of some ones stinking damn cigarettes, clothes hair everything.

Dirty filthy disgusting no good serves no purpose just a waste of money and health!

3 ( +6 / -3 )

I am not going to lie, cigarettes taste great, but if I had not given them up 50 years ago, I doubt very much that I would be alive today.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Not often I agree with Bjorn Tomention, but I can't disagree with a single word he has written in his post above.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

1glenn

i didn’t want to say in my previous post but now I know you a fellow x smoker I also kicked it after smoking from the age of 12 only because I had a kid and gave up when she was exactly 6 months old. Hardest thing I’ve ever done that was 3+ yrs ago. Well done for kicking it fella. All the best.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

"For the tiny drinking shops here in Shinjuku's Golden Gai, not permitting smoking would be a matter of life and death,"

Oh, the irony!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

"For the tiny drinking shops here in Shinjuku's Golden Gai, not permitting smoking would be a matter of life and death,"

It's truly sad that so many people are still addicted to nicotine/smoking.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

"For the tiny drinking shops here in Shinjuku's Golden Gai, not permitting smoking would be a matter of life and death,"

It is for the smokers and the people who take in second hand smoke.

The same false argument was made in the UK and the USA by restaurants but what happened is just the opposite. More people went to these places after the ban as they knew they would not get cancer from tobacco smoke.

Besides the number of smokers is going down every year in Japan, it is below 20% now. Many of them are dying of lung cancer. So as a business person, which number is bigger, 80% or 20%. Pretty damn simple to figure out.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

"For the tiny drinking shops here in Shinjuku's Golden Gai, not permitting smoking would be a matter of life and death,"... News Flash: Smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol are already matters of life and death...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

hi ! I love a cigar now and then. I see no problem with owners opening places where we, cigar smokers can have a cigar. The staff knows it is a cigar bar and are not forced to work there.

I used to have a bottle keep in several hotel bars spending a few hundred thousand yen every 3 months in each of them. Now , I don’t.

No non smoker is forced to go to a smoking place. And I understand people who don’t want to smoke but a bit of tolerance for smokers exclusive establishments would be nice.

a cigar, a nice single malt.. I enjoy it.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Here's the loophole. You can smoke inside restaurants providing you put a plastic bag over your head while smoking, and make sure the smoke doesn't leak out.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Absolute total ban on smoking everywhere!!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I can see both sides of the debate. I used to smoke, and I enjoyed it very much. On the other hand, both my parents smoked, and both died of cancer. I stopped smoking because I decided a long, healthy life was more important to me. When my parents were young the dangers of smoking were not part of the conversation. Not going to lie, a smoke and a scotch sounds great. Even today, if I see someone smoking on the sidewalk, I enjoy walking through their smoke and inhaling.

I am glad that smoking is generally not allowed in restaurants, in theaters, or on planes, the way it used to be. My wife has a breathing problem, and absolutely cannot be around smokers. Still, I think specialized smoking establishments should be allowed. Tobacco is heavily taxed, and hopefully some of that tax goes for the eventual care of cancer and emphysema patients.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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