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Pub chain in Japan sees increase in customers after implementing smoking ban

Customers are seen at a Kushikatsu Tanaka pub that has implemented a total smoking ban, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on July 11, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- While the Diet enacted an anti-smoking law on July 18 that will take full effect in April 2020, a number of businesses have already moved to implement their own smoking bans that are tougher than the central government's standards -- producing some promising results.

Kushikatsu Tanaka Co., an operator of Japanese-style pubs, or izakaya, based in Tokyo's Shinagawa Ward, fully banned smoking at 184 of its 199 outlets from June 1. At 7 p.m. on July 11, the Suidobashi Kushikatsu Tanaka outlet near JR Suidobashi Station was bustling with customers. While there were many who looked like salarymen, there was no sign of the cigarettes commonly seen at such pubs, and no smell of smoke either.

One 31-year-old man who said he often drinks at pubs commented that he does not smoke himself but that smoke doesn't bother him too much. Looking at a poster saying "All seats non-smoking," he said, "I think no smoking might be better." A 31-year-old female office worker he was with added, "From the time I came in here, I thought it was a clean, nice place." When it came to drinking with work colleagues, she said, "I had imagined pubs as places where people could smoke and so I put up with it. But I really couldn't enjoy sitting next to a smoker." Holding up a mug of beer, with a smile, she added, "I want places like this to become the norm.

According to the company, sales at pubs it manages directly dropped slightly in June, to 97.1 percent of the previous year's figure but the number of customers increased by 2.2 percent. The number of families visiting increased in particular, by 6 percent.

A public relations representative for the company stated, "With factors that could result in customers not turning up, like the soccer World Cup and so on, the ban on smoking has not had as much of a bad effect on business as we had feared." The company aims to add family visitors as new targets for business, and the representative said it aims to continue the smoking ban, looking ahead 10 or 20 years.

Family restaurant chain Saizeriya is set to completely ban smoking at all its restaurants from September 2019.

(Japanese original by Masahiro Sakai, Medical Welfare News Department)

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