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55% of restaurants to be exempt from smoking ban under health ministry draft

(Mainichi, file)

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has provisionally calculated that up to 55 percent of restaurants would be exempt from having to ban smoking in principle under a draft revision of the Health Promotion Act set to be submitted to the Diet.

The Health Promotion Act is designed to combat passive smoking. However, should the revision go through, it is possible that more than half of all restaurants in Japan could permit smoking.

The health ministry is trying to gain public understanding about the plan, stating that, "The percentage of restaurants where smoking will be allowed will gradually decrease, as all new restaurants have to be nonsmoking in principle."

The draft revision, which is set to be submitted during the current Diet session, states that indoor smoking is to be banned in principle in establishments such as restaurants. However, it adds that existing restaurants with a seating area of 100 square meters or less, and with a capital of 50 million yen or less, would be able to allow smoking for a certain period of time upon displaying a relevant sign.

Regarding the area criterion, it had been learned through surveys by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and other entities that about 90 percent of restaurants met the exemption conditions. However, when restaurants that have already banned smoking and major chains were excluded -- based on surveys such as the Economic Census for Business Frame of Japan -- it was concluded that 55 percent of restaurants would be exempt from having to ban smoking.

However, according to the ministry, just under 20 percent of restaurants have newly opened during the past two years. Extended to the past five years, the figure rises to slightly over 30 percent.

If necessary, the stipulation that allows certain restaurants to be exempt from banning smoking can be re-examined five years after the revision is put into effect.

From around the summer of 2019 onward, smoking is set to be banned on the premises of schools and medical institutions. A full implementation of the revised law, covering restaurants, is set to be introduced in April 2020 -- falling after the initial target of the start of the Rugby World Cup, which kicks off in September 2019.

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