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Health ministry looks toward Olympics with clampdown on secondhand smoke

(Mainichi)

In preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has announced stricter countermeasures against secondhand smoke exposure.

The International Olympic Committee and the World Health Organization have been pushing for a smoke-free Olympics in host cities. This led to all host cities since 2004 introducing countermeasures against secondhand smoke exposure that carry penalties. So far, Japan has only urged businesses and organizations to make efforts to comply with the Health Promotion Act.

The new restrictions released by the health ministry on Oct. 12 divide rules about smoking by the type of facility. Smoking inside the facilities is banned at government administration offices and stadiums, while smoking in designated smoking rooms is allowed at restaurants and offices. Those found smoking on the premises of schools and medical facilities, and facility management staff, would be penalized under the new policies.

The new system will be enforced by issuing advisories and orders to those found smoking in designated no smoking areas and facility management staff. If the person in question continues their behavior, they will be subject to penalties. Smoking inside of personal residences and hotel rooms is not subject to the restrictions.

"We are aiming to make the first smoke-free year (for Japan) a reality," a ministry official explained. The ministry aims to further amend the laws concerning smoking areas and hopes to hold meetings with related organizations in the restaurant, traditional Japanese inn, and other industries in the future.

Dr. Masakazu Nakamura of the Japan Association for Development of Community Medicine, who is well-versed in anti-smoking policies, commented that it was possible to put the new countermeasures into practice. "There may be opposition from those in the restaurant and other related industries, but this is a meaningful step forward," he said. "What is important now is working to sway public opinion."

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