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Small restaurants to be OK’d for smoking

  • January 30, 2018
  • , The Japan News , 08:31 p.m.
  • English Press

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The health ministry on Tuesday proposed excluding for the time being existing restaurants and bars run by small enterprises or individuals from a smoking ban the country plans to impose in public spaces.


The proposal is part of a modified draft bill to amend the health promotion law, drawn up for preventing unwanted passive smoking. The scope of restaurants and bars subject to the regulation has been a major focus in the bill.


The bill now calls for obliging small outlets wanting to permit smoking to put up signs saying that smoking is allowed or separated smoking areas are available. It also seeks to ban the entry of people aged under 20, including customers, to such restaurants and smoking areas.


The ministry will work out criteria on such an exemption, including floor space and the size of operating companies.


After presenting the revised draft to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party shortly, the ministry hopes to submit it to the Diet during the ongoing regular session, which is currently slated to run through June 20.


In its previous draft bill, unveiled in March last year, the ministry sought a smoking ban exemption only for bars with a floor space of up to 30 square meters.


But it was forced to modify the bill as the LDP, in response to requests from the restaurant industry, insisted on expanding the scope of the exemption to all eating and drinking places with a floor space of up to 150 square meters.


The modified draft bill, while attaching importance to reducing health effects on children and cancer patients from secondhand smoking, also gives consideration to businesses with limited financial resources.


It calls for imposing an indoor smoking ban on restaurants and bars to be newly opened and existing ones run by large enterprises unless they create dedicated smoking spaces.


Meanwhile, the revised bill seeks to allow existing restaurants and bars with floor spaces of up to a certain standard to permit smoking by their customers in all seats or in separated areas until rules to be applied to them are set under law.


The bill newly includes heat-not-burn cigarettes as items subject to the regulation, but calls for treating them differently from paper-wrapped cigarettes.


While customers smoking ordinary cigarettes in dedicated areas will not be allowed to have meals or drinks there, those enjoying heat-not-burn cigarettes, which contain comparatively small amounts of nicotine and cancer-causing substances, will be permitted to eat or drink in such spaces.


The bill seeks to totally ban smoking inside such facilities as hospitals, schools and public office buildings, and allow these facilities to establish smoking areas only in open-air spaces within their premises. Indoor smoking will be banned in principle at business offices, athletic facilities and hotels except for guest rooms. But these facilities will be allowed to create dedicated smoking spaces.


At all these facilities, operators will be obliged to put up signs at the smoking spaces and prohibit the entry of people aged under 20.


The rules stipulated in the modified bill will be introduced in stages and fully enforced by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.


The World Health Organization has rated Japan’s measures against passive smoking in public places at the fourth level, which is the lowest. The new rules are expected to lift the rating by one notch.


In a related move on Tuesday, the Tokyo metropolitan government decided to put off the submission of a planned ordinance for strengthening countermeasures against passive smoking as it sees the need to ensure its consistency with the rules to be set under the health ministry’s bill, according to informed sources.

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