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LDP approves new draft of watered-down health ministry passive smoking plan

A man smokes at an izakaya pub in Chiba in this file photo taken on Aug. 10, 2017. (Mainichi)

A Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Policy Division has reached broad agreement over new draft revisions to the Health Promotion Act strengthening anti-secondhand smoke measures, it has been learned.

The new draft submitted by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on Feb. 22 stipulates that existing restaurants and bars that have a seating space of 100 square meters or less fall outside of the ban on smoking indoors. While the exemption rolls back the scale of the smoking ban in the March 2017 draft and has attracted criticism, putting the revised law into effect in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics was judged to be the most important factor. The government is looking to approve the policy by Cabinet decision in early March.

In last year's draft, the health ministry had proposed that smoking be outlawed in principle in all restaurants expect for establishments such as bars with seating space of 30 square meters or less. However, the recently approved draft greatly expands the scope of establishments where indoor smoking will still be allowed. Smoking will be lawful in these businesses as long as the proper signage is displayed outside. Other guidelines for exception include having a sole proprietorship or a base capital of 50 million yen or less.

New businesses and major chains will be subject to the smoking ban regardless of whether or not they have 100 square meters of seating or less.

At the same time, measures to prevent heath damage from secondhand smoke will be implemented, such as banning workers and customers aged 19 or younger from entering smoking areas at the establishments.

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