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Survey finds only 50% of Japanese hospitals are fully smoke-free

Kyodo

Of the roughly 8,500 hospitals across Japan, only 50 percent have banned smoking on their premises, a health ministry survey showed Wednesday.

The survey showed that the others allow smoking in limited areas, with about 30 percent prohibiting only smoking indoors and about 15 percent setting up special sections for smokers.

There has been discussion of enacting ordinances against smoking in public places by the time of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, but the survey suggests slow progress in banishing smoke from medical facilities.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said the survey represented a snapshot as of Oct. 1 last year.

Out of the 8,493 hospitals with 20 beds or more, only 4,351 — 51 percent — have completely banned smoking, while 2,758, or 32 percent, prohibit smoking inside the building.

A total of 1,182, or 14 percent, have set up smoking areas and implemented measures to prevent smoke from drifting, while 119, or 1 percent, have taken “other steps.”

Fourteen hospitals, or 0.2 percent, said they have taken no measures.

Among some 100,000 medical clinics with 19 beds or less, approximately 30,000 have banned smoking on their property, while 51,000 have prohibited smoking inside the building. About 8,000 have set up smoking areas, while 2,000 have failed to take any such measures.

Compared with a survey conducted in 2008, the number of hospitals that have completely banned smoking on site increased 1.8-fold, while such medical clinics rose 1.3-fold.

The Health Promotion Law, which came into force in 2003, requires public facilities to carry out measures to prevent passive smoking. However, it imposes no penalties for those that do not comply.

In 2010, the health ministry issued a notice saying it was preferable that all public offices and medical facilities ban smoking completely. But it failed to clarify whether nonsmoking areas should cover the entire premises of a facility or just inside the building.

The ministry aims to eliminate secondhand smoke at all medical facilities by fiscal 2022.