Smoking ban draws jeers, cheers in Chiyoda Ward

The first-ever local ordinance to penalize cigarette smoking in the street, enacted in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on Tuesday, has been effective in reducing the number people smoking outdoors, ward officials said Sunday.

Ward officials have been patrolling eight designated areas where smoking in the streets is officially banned. The number of people smoking in the street, as well as the sight of discarded cigarette butts, has been drastically reduced in those areas, they said.

“Most smokers follow our instructions (not to smoke),” said Kunihiko Tsukada, one of 40 ward officials who patrol the areas in rotation. “The ordinance is likely to have helped improve the manners of smokers in this ward.”

The patrolling officials are merely giving instructions to violators this month, but street smokers will be subject to a 2,000 yen fine from next month.

The ward has received a positive response, mainly from ward residents, in the form of phone calls and e-mails. Residents said they now feel it is safer to walk the streets with children.

The number of complaints from smokers, however, exceeds such positive messages. The ward is now considering whether to set up smoking spots within the no-smoking areas.

In the meantime, other municipalities have been closely watching Chiyoda Ward’s efforts.

The ward said it has received more than 500 inquiries about the ordinance from local governments across the country.