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Why Japan's Indoors Are Still Not Smoke-Free These Days

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Although Japan is a global leader in the advancement of scientific technology and industries, it's still lagging behind in terms of smoking regulations. Until today, there are no laws that completely ban smoking in the country. While Japan unveiled an anti-smoking plan for the 2020 Olympics that prevents passive smoking in public places, there remains a gaping loophole that needs to be fixed. The plan does not restrict customers from smoking in restaurants and bars.

Here are 3 reasons why the Land of the Rising Sun is having a hard time to implement stricter anti-smoking rules:

Businesses Will Suffer

Restaurant owners claim that smoking customers can skip lighting up in the morning. But, they can't do so at night especially when they're looking forward to having a drink. It just happens that popular drink sake goes well with smoking.

Some loyal customers also argue that what they love about Japan's restaurants is that they're allowed to eat or drink and smoke at the same time. Thus, owners are worried that if a total smoking ban would be implemented, doing business will be very difficult for them, especially that they could lose their customers. And, should the government require smoking rooms, not all business owners have the space and/or money to comply with the law.

The government has already banned smoking in public places. Thus, for customers, they only have two choices — either smoke freely within their homes or in any of these restaurants.

Heated tobacco products are also at risk. While manufacturers claim that such products do not produce secondhand smoke and contain less harmful substances, businesses prefer to allow the use of heated tobacco over cigarette smoking. If the total ban is implemented, the prediction that the product's market share will reach 50% by 2020 will not materialize.

Tied to Politics

Apart from business owners, some members of the government are also not in favor of such ban as they believe that they should recognize "the right to smoke."

This prompted senior official Tokuaki Shobayashi to urge anti-smoking proponents to "take the first step with a modest plan." That's because a stricter and tougher law will be easily dismissed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party — which is said to have the support of tobacco and restaurant industries.

While Shobayashi drafted a bill that urged restaurant owners to "make efforts" on preventing secondhand smoking, his idea has been denounced both by anti-smoking groups (who wanted stricter regulations) and the pro-smoking LDP.

Plus, the Japanese Government owns one-third of Japan Tobacco — which is the country's biggest producer and seller of cigarettes. If the tobacco business is bad, so is the dividend from JT shares, according to Japanese Upper House MP Shigefumi Matsuzawa who told ABCNews.

Going Against the Norm

Despite the well-known dangers of smoking and secondhand smoking, it's difficult for the progressive country to move forward and implement a total ban given that smoking indoors has been going on and socially accepted for a long time.

Some still don't believe in its potential effects, claiming to know old people who have lived longer despite being exposed to secondhand smoking. As for others, they just can't see themselves going through the day without lighting up a cigar. On top of that, tobacco industries are also downplaying the connection between secondhand smoke and the potential health diseases — which makes people think that there's nothing really bad being exposed to it.

This is just one of the norms of the Japanese that you're not probably aware yet. There's more to discover (secrets and first-hand stories from locals) once you join walking tours in Japan. Discover more about the country's culture, people, and traditions by taking part in a free walking tour!


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