Our office is located in Ginza, which is known for being the most luxurious area of Japan. There are many popular department stores and brand outlets here. However, if you venture into the backstreets of Ginza, you will find some restaurants (mostly Chinese restaurants) that allow their guest to smoke, even during lunch time.

Also, not only in Ginza, but all over Japan, most Izakayas (Japanese-style bars) do not prohibit smoking. Actually, we often go to an Izakaya at night with our clients, colleagues or friends. As some Izakayas serve a lot of cheap food, some guests come there with their families (including their children) to have casual dinners. But most of the Izakayas allow guests to smoke. So when we go to an Izakaya, we need to be aware that we will be exposed to cigarette smoke.

Why is this terrible situation occurring in Japan?

This is because in Japan, there is no strict legal restriction regarding smoking in restaurants and bars.

It is true that Article 25 of the Health Promotion Law stipulates as follows.

Those who manage facilities such as schools, gymnasiums, hospitals, theaters, exhibition halls, meeting places, exhibition halls, department stores, offices, government agencies, eating and drinking places, and other facilities that are used by many people, must endeavor to take the necessary measures to prevent passive smoking (which means to be forced to smoke others' tobacco smoke in indoor or similar environments).

However, this article stipulates only an "obligation to endeavor to take the necessary measures" (not an "obligation to take the necessary measures"). Therefore, there is no penalty for those who do not take any measures to prevent passive smoking.

Now, the Japanese government is trying to ban smoking in facilities that a large number of people use in principle by revising this law, but even now since there are many people who want to smoke in restaurants and bars (especially men in their 40s and 50s; almost 40% of them are smokers). Since dissenting opinions are also strong, the ban cannot be easily established.

Yet, recent good news has emerged. On September 8, Governor Yuriko Koike of Tokyo announced that Tokyo is trying to establish a regulation that bans smoking in public facilities, including restaurants and bars in principle. This excepts only the restaurants and bars that meet all of following items:

(1) The area is less than 30 square meters.

(2) They do not use any employees, or all employees agree to work in smoky conditions.

(3) Children do not enter there.

(4) Posting that they allow smoking.

If this Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance is enacted, I will no longer have to go to an Izakaya or restaurant where I will have cigarette smoke blown into my face. I hope that this ordinance is established at once.