AS THE Japanese government pushes stricter tobacco regulations, many private companies are also pushing their employees to kick the habit.
One of them is Piala Inc – a Tokyo-based online marketing company which has made headlines for its decision in September to grant an extra six days’ paid leave to employees who do not smoke.
“One of our non-smoking staff put a message in the company suggestion box earlier in the year saying that smoking breaks were causing problems,” a spokesman for the company told The Telegraph.
“Our CEO saw the comment and agreed, so we are giving non-smokers some extra time off to compensate.”
Ahead of hosting the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan is seeking to shed its image as a “puffing paradise”. To date, Japanese smoking regulations are far looser than comparable nations – even neighbouring China and South Korea are stricter on tobacco.
Cigarettes in Japan remain relatively cheap at around JPY430 – less than US$4 – and are labelled with only modest health warnings.
In comparison, an average packet of cigarettes in tobacco-loving France costs around US$7.50, 10 bucks across the channel in the UK, while Australia hits consumers for a whopping AUD20 (US$15) per pack or more.
While anti-smoking lawmakers in Japan have struggled to implement stronger legislation – particularly because of the power of the tobacco lobby including state-owned Japan Tobacco International (JTI) – private sector actors are actively encouraging their staff to quit.
Convenience store chain Lawson Inc. has introduced an all-day ban on smoking at its head offices with the goal of reducing the ratio of smokers in its workforce by 10 percent between 2016 and 2018, reported Japan’s state news agency Kyodo.
“The company is willing to take an even tougher anti-smoking measure in the future,” a Lawson spokesperson said.
Life insurance company Sompo Japan Nippon Kowa Himawari has similarly introduced an all-day smoking ban across its business outlets across Japan and subsidises tobacco cessation programmes.
“I am no longer shunned by non-smokers as I have rid myself of the odour of cigarette smoke,” executive officer Masayuki Seto – one of the participants in such programmes and a former smoker of 30 years – told Kyodo.
“Moves to quit smoking have spread among staff working under my supervision.”