The discreet charm of Japan’s anti-smoking campaign

By George Lloyd, grape Japan

In common with other countries, the number of smokers in Japan is in steady decline. Currently, around 28% of Japanese men and 9% of Japanese women smoke. This is a considerable drop from its peak in 1966, when the proportion of male smokers stood at 83%.

Photo: George Lloyd

Unlike other countries’ anti-smoking campaigns, Japan’s has focused on outdoor, rather than indoor smoking. Most Tokyo wards have designated smoking areas on the street and smokers caught smoking outside these areas can be fined.

In 2008, Japan Tobacco commissioned a series of "smoking manners" posters, instructing smokers in smoking etiquette. Here’s a selection of JT’s posters on display in the designated smoking spaces around Tokyo.

Photo: George Lloyd

Rather than the dangers of second-hand smoke, Japan’s anti-smoking campaign has focused on the litter created by discarded cigarette butts and the risk of burning passers-by. To avoid littering, many smokers even carry portable ashtrays.

Photo: George Lloyd

This light-touch regulation reflects the power of the tobacco lobby. Until 1985, the tobacco industry was a government-run monopoly. The government still owns one-third of Japan Tobacco, which may explain why health warnings are low-key and cigarettes are still relatively cheap.

Photo: George Lloyd

Some wealthier wards, such as Shinjuku and Shibuya, have banned smoking in public outright. However, most coffee shops and restaurants have designated, airconditioned smoking cubicles.

In anticipation of the arrival of thousands of non-smoking foreigners for the 2020 Olympics (postponed until 2021), a new law prohibiting indoor smoking came into effect in April 2020. But indoor smoking cubicles will be unaffected.

Read more stories from grape Japan.

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© grape Japan

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Normalisation (arguably promotion) of tobacco abuse, in a G7 nation. The subtext is smoking is OK, like JT's 'Smokin' Clean' campaigns of the 1980s. Where are the health warnings?

Plus ça change...

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Plus ça change...

Exactly. This, like all its predecessors is not an "anti-smoking campaign" by any stretch of the imagination.

Maybe when the government finally jettisons its shares in JT (not Japan Today) we will finally see something that actually compels people not to smoke, period, rather than preaching smoking etiquette.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Nice and Japanese.  Better than smoking police.  Leave the 28% and 9% alone.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

I have always enjoyed the light-hearted, yet pointed, artistry of these green and white artistic creations. ON the other hand, I wish the JT/Jgov would put on every cig packette sold the gruesome photos of ravaged lungs, lips, and lives, aka Australia.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

People ignore these just as they ignore the "don't forget your umbrella" reminders on the subways. At best, they are silly.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"This, like all its predecessors is not an "anti-smoking campaign" by any stretch of the imagination."

Maybe it is not to your liking but it IS actually THE Japanese version of an anti-smoking campaign. What are you expecting or demanding exactly?

I don't smoke personally but have grown to hate the no-smoking zealots. Intolerant people.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

"Maybe it is not to your liking but it IS actually THE Japanese version of an anti-smoking campaign."

This is at best a campaign for slightly more considerate smoking habits, at worst a promo for smoking which circumvents laws against tobacco advertising.

I don't smoke personally but, having lost relatives to lung cancer, have grown to hate the morally bankrupt practice of producing and knowingly marketing known carcinogens to vulnerable consumers.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I agree that smoking is bad for you but would you not agree that alcohol also has negative connotations to life and wellbeing?

Your poignant appeal on behalf of lost relatives is interesting.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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