JAPAN is moving to pass its strictest ever smoking laws in an attempt to clean up the country’s image before it hosts millions of international visitors at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
It is unclear how stringent the restrictions will be given the staunch resistance from those in the restaurant and hotel industries who cater to smokers, as well as the country’s powerful tobacco lobby.
The original proposal envisioned a ban on all indoor smoking across all public institutions, from schools and hospitals to municipal offices, eateries and hotels. The latest version, however, is far less strict, only requiring certain establishments to build a separate smoking room.
But even these weakened restrictions are facing challenges as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have expressed opposition to the reform.
Japan’s reputation as a puffing paradise leaves it well behind most other developed nations, such as Australia and France, which have implemented blanket bans in public spaces.
In a 2015 report, the World Health Organisation gave Japan’s efforts to eradicate second-hand smoke its lowest rating, calling into question whether the country would be considered a responsible one according to the so-called Tobacco-Free Olympics body in time for the 2020 Games.