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Abe orders LDP to submit anti-passive smoking bill to Diet

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to submit a revision to the Health Promotion Act incorporating measures against secondhand smoke to the Diet during the current session.

Abe has left details of the bill up to the LDP. The party is working on a diluted bill that would allow restaurants under a certain size to permit smoking. It hopes to pass the legislation into law during the current session.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare compiled a proposal that would exempt bars and "snack" pubs with a total floor space of 30 square meters or less from a smoking ban, though it would also be possible to set up smoking rooms.

The LDP, however, has expressed concerns that such a measure could affect the business of restaurants. It thus compiled a general proposal that would permit smoking at establishments under a certain floor area that put up signs stating that smoking is permitted or that there is a separate smoking area. Under its proposal, the entry of customers or workers under the age of 20 to restaurants permitting smoking would be banned. As for the floor space, officials are finalizing the bill while taking into consideration a Kanagawa prefectural ordinance that cites a figure of 100 square meters for guest spaces.

One senior LDP official said that to pass the bill before the current Diet session ends on June 18, it would be necessary to compile opinions on the bill this week. But within the LDP, officials have been split between those who support the ministry's proposal and those favoring the party's, and the party has been unable to achieve a consensus.

LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Toshimitsu Motegi and Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Yasuhisa Shiozaki planned to meet as early as May 24, and make final adjustments toward producing a draft bill.

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