Web Japan > NIPPONIA No.28 > In Japan Today
NIPPONIA No.28 March 15, 2004

In Japan Today
A Fine for Smoking on Some Tokyo Streets!
Written by Sakagami Yasuko, Photos by Kato Yoshiaki
Additional photo collaboration: Mainichi Shimbun

Left: The municipal government of Chiyoda Ward in Tokyo fines people who smoke on the street. This has created quite a stir in Japan.
Above right: The sign above the station platform reads, "No Smoking At Any Time."
Below: Companies are limiting smoking to certain restricted areas, to keep secondhand smoke away from non-smokers in the building. For nicotine lovers, the times are changing, not necessarily to their liking.

There is a growing trend in Japan to tighten up on smoking in public, reflecting increased interest in health issues. Tobacco contains about 40 different carcinogens, and these substances are known to cause cancer of the lungs and throat. Not only can smoking make the smoker sick, but secondhand smoke can cause problems for non-smokers as well. This issue has received plenty of attention in Japan the past few years. It is said that secondhand smoke can cause nearly as much damage as it does to the smoker.
Chiyoda Ward in Tokyo has a huge number of offices where company employees and civil servants work. In October 2002, the Chiyoda municipal government enacted a "living environment ordinance" to protect people from secondhand smoke. Places where many people pass by, especially near stations and on walkways used by commuting workers and students, are designated as no-smoking areas. People are not allowed to toss a cigarette butt on the ground in those places, either. Violators may have to pay a fine of up to 20,000 yen.
"In 1999, our municipal government enacted an ordinance prohibiting people from dropping cigarette butts on the ground in the ward, and we have conducted many campaigns to publicize the issue. But there's a limit to what such campaigns can do to influence the social behavior of smokers, so the ordinance provides for fines," says a representative of the Living Environment Division of the Community and Public Works Department of the Chiyoda municipal government.
Inspectors from the Living Environment Division patrol parts of the ward every day, even on weekends and in the evening. By September 2003, more than 2,300 smokers had been fined for smoking on the street. People in different parts of the country are taking note of Chiyoda's new approach, and a growing number of local governments are considering implementing the same type of ordinance.
The Division says that, compared with the situation before the ordinance was enacted, the number of cases of people dropping cigarette butts on the street has been cut by about 90% in spots being monitored. It says the ordinance has had another positive result as well—debate on banning smoking in public has spread throughout the country.
For its part, the national government enacted the Health Promotion Law in May 2003. One part of the law requires the management of any much-used indoor space, such as a department store, theater, or eating and drinking establishment, to draw up measures to protect people from secondhand smoke.
Efforts are now mounting to stop people from lighting up in public. For example, private railway companies in Tokyo have begun prohibiting any smoking in stations, and Ringer Hut, a large restaurant chain, has started taking the same approach for all of its outlets.
The trend toward smoke-free public spaces is growing all over Japan, and smokers are beginning to see their habit frowned upon more and more.

   Special Feature*    Wonders of Japan    Living In Japan
   Why Not Try Growing a Bonsai Tree?    Japanese Animals and Culture
   Bon Appetit!    Japan Travelogue    Cover Interview    In Japan Today