Japan must make public places in Tokyo smoke-free by the time it hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics or risk falling foul of International Olympic Committee, IOC, rules that call for a healthy games, activists said on Tuesday.
Japans Health Minister has said the government is eager to stamp out smoking in public by the time the capital hosts the Olympics.
Meanwhile, smoking remains so entrenched there is still a cigarette vending machine in a Health Ministry annex.
The IOC requires tobacco-free games and all recent host cities have passed legislation to ban smoking in indoor and enclosed public spaces, including restaurants, bars and cafes.
Japanese laws encourage restaurants and other public areas to limit exposure to second-hand smoke by setting up barriers or separate smoking and non-smoking areas.
However, there is no punishment for non-compliance. Smokers can even light up on the grounds of schools and hospitals. The situation for preventing passive smoking in Japan is on a level with that in a developing nation, said Manabu Sakuta, Chairman of the
Non-Governmental Organisation, Japan Society for Tobacco Control. We hope for improvement so there will not be lots of problems with passive smoking in all the parts of Tokyo that do not meet the Olympic standards, as well as the games venues after they are built, Sakuta said.
Health Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki told a news conference in January his ministry aimed to submit a bill on preventing passive smoking during the current session of parliament. According to the World Health Organization, Japans measures to prevent passive smoking are among the worlds worst, he said.
But tightening up the rules faces strong opposition from restaurant management organisations, which fear the impact on their business.
Smoking rates have fallen in Japan due to greater health awareness and higher cigarette prices, health ministry data shows, and about 30 per cent of men and 7.9 per cent of women smoke.
Keisuke Kurimoto, a Deputy Director of the ministrys Health Services Section, said it was too early to say what the contents of the proposed billwill be or if it would be ready before the current session ends, probably in June. Were using this as an opportunity, a goal, he said of the Olympics. Of course, this isnt the only reason, the health impact is our main priority, Kurimoto said.