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Health ministry to drop passive smoking targets from anti-cancer plan

(Mainichi, file)

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is set to exclude numerical targets for preventing passive smoking from its third basic plan to tackle cancer, it has emerged.

The targets were in the second plan that ran from fiscal 2012 to 2016, but will be left out of the third in line with a draft revision of the Health Promotion Act, which does not include a blanket ban on smoking in public spaces but states only that "unwanted passive smoking will be eliminated." The draft revision is due to be submitted during this year's regular Diet session.

As a result, the anti-secondhand smoke measures in the third anti-cancer plan will take a step back from specific numbers in favor of more abstract targets.

The third plan was approved by the Cabinet in October 2017. However, numerical targets concerning passive smoking were put on the back burner as the health ministry and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party could not agree on a figure.

In the second plan, there were aims such as reducing the ratio of people exposed to secondhand smoke in restaurants and bars to 15 percent by fiscal 2022. Moreover, an expert panel which discussed the contents of the third plan urged the government to bring in a "zero passive smoking" target.

However, new countermeasures against secondhand smoke, which were proposed by the health ministry in January 2018, list several exemptions such as allowing smoking in existing small-scale restaurants and bars if they display a relevant sign.

In the anti-cancer plan, it states, "Anti-passive smoking measures will be implemented thoroughly ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, and a society with zero unwanted secondhand smoke exposure will be realized as early as possible during the third plan." However, it is uncertain how effective the plan will be.

The government intends to gain Cabinet approval for the revised version of the third plan soon, but there will likely be a backlash from cancer patients and other critics.


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