Preventing secondhand smoke has recently emerged as a hot topic in Japan, with some advocating the idea of making restaurants and similar spaces smoke-free, and others opposing this. The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about second-hand smoke and the effectiveness of separate smoking areas.
Question: What are the dangers of secondhand smoke?
Answer: Secondhand smoke raises the risk of ailments like lung cancer, stroke and heart attack. Cigarette smoke contains around 4,000 chemical ingredients, including carcinogens. There is no "safe limit" of how much can be inhaled; any amount is harmful.
Q: Are separated smoking spaces not enough to stop secondhand smoke?
A: Smoke can escape from those spaces, such as when the doors are opened and closed, so they do not completely stop secondhand smoke. Research on places like restaurants and bullet train cars with smoking spaces found that PM 2.5 particles from the smoke escaped those spaces. In addition to it escaping when doors are opened, people leaving these spaces carry some smoke in their lungs; smoke which they then breathe out in smoke-free areas. Smokers can also carry and disperse chemical substances on their clothing.
Furthermore, in countries with indoor smoking bans, there have been reports of fewer hospitalizations for ailments like heart disease and asthma.
Q: Will banning smoking in restaurants hurt their sales?
A: There are many reports from countries that have banned smoking in restaurants that show that restaurant income has not fallen. In Japan as well, there are survey results showing that at least one chain that banned smoking in its restaurants actually saw its sales rise. These results show that sales will not necessarily fall.
Q: I've heard that there is more lung cancer in Japan now even though smoking rates have fallen. Do cigarettes really have an effect?
A: Indeed lung cancer cases and deaths are up, but this is because of the aging population. Cancer is common in the elderly, and cancer from smoking does not occur immediately, but decades after someone begins to smoke. Looking at the rate of lung cancer deaths among the non-elderly, the figure peaked for men in 1996 and has been falling since. In 1965, over 80 percent of Japanese men smoked, but now about 30 percent smoke, as do about 10 percent of Japanese women. (Answers by Mikako Shimogiri, Medical Welfare News Department)