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No butts as Tokyo gets serious on smoking

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People walk through an area with karaoke shops and restaurants in the Shinbashi district in Tokyo. Anti-smoking laws come into force in the city from today. Photo: Getty Images

People walk through an area with karaoke shops and restaurants in the Shinbashi district in Tokyo. Anti-smoking laws come into force in the city from today. Photo: Getty Images

AFP via Getty Images

People walk through an area with karaoke shops and restaurants in the Shinbashi district in Tokyo. Anti-smoking laws come into force in the city from today. Photo: Getty Images

Patrons of Tokyo restaurants and bars were able to light up indoors for the last time yesterday as one of the world's most cigarette-friendly cities starts enforcing anti-smoking laws from today.

Japan lags behind many countries in its efforts to reduce tobacco usage, and the ban - just in Tokyo - only applies to traditional cigarettes, not so-called "heat, not burn" devices for which Japan is the world's biggest market.

E-cigarettes that use liquid nicotine are banned.

The ban was part of Tokyo's preparations for the now-delayed 2020 Olympics, and covers establishments with hired employees, meaning many of the family- owned-and-operated bars and restaurants that the city is famous for are exempt.

It took two years for the ban to come into effect - parliament approved the law in 2018 along with other national anti- smoking legislation - highlighting the hurdles anti-smoking activists face in a country where the biggest tobacco maker, Japan Tobacco, is one-third owned by the government and its products provide substantial tax revenue.

"This year's law is still not sufficient," politician and anti-smoking campaigner Shigefumi Matsuzawa said.

"We had to set many compromises in order for it to pass, so there are several loopholes."

Less than a fifth of Japanese still smoke, down from about half the population half a century ago, but cigarettes are widely available and affordable: a pack of 20 costs around 500 yen (€4.20).

Irish Independent