Public smoking bill to hit Diet next week, will not include penalties for infraction


Ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers have compiled an outline for a bill detailing where people can and cannot smoke in public places to deal with the issue of passive smoke.

The LDP lawmakers are aiming to enact the legislation at an ordinary session of the Diet to be convened Monday.

Currently, business operators and other organizations are urged to take appropriate steps to curb secondhand smoke in public places under the health promotion law and the revised law on industrial safety and health.

The outline of the LDP’s bill on passive smoke calls on the government to take “a legal step” within two years after it is implemented to make sure that smoking will be banned at educational, welfare and medical institutions, and that smoking areas will be separated from nonsmoking areas in other public facilities.

But the outline does not mention penalties that will be imposed for violations, effectively leaving the formulation of specific measures to the government.

According to an LDP source, the lawmakers did not include any punitive clause in the outline out of fear of offending tobacco farmers, a key support group for the party.

A separate suprapartisan bill for the prevention of passive smoke urges the government to implement “a measure to ensure effectiveness,” a de facto call for a punitive clause. But the LDP lawmakers were ambiguous about the steps they expect of the government in the bill out of consideration for tobacco farmers, the source said.

Based on the outline, the LDP lawmakers will ask members of other political parties to support their bill so that they can jointly submit it to the upcoming regular Diet session.

With some parties, including the biggest opposition Democratic Party of Japan, underscoring the importance of proper regulations to prevent passive smoke, discussions about the bill are expected to be focused for now on penalties for violations.

  • Stephen Kent

    It’s high time, I feel, that the powers that be take measures to deal with the scandalously lax smoking regulations in Japan. Smoking rates are at an all time low even without any real attempts by the government to get the situation under control, and with the Olympics coming up in a few years, this would be the ideal time to engage the public, raise awareness of the dangers of second hand smoke (as well as the ineffectiveness of separated smoking and non-smoking areas in the same establishment), and introduce regulations to stop smoking in all bars and restaurants.

    However, given the vested interest the powerful bureaucrats at the Ministry of Finance have in keeping things as they are, I feel that the aim of any laws introduced will be to give the impression that regulation fit for a developed country has been introduced, while in reality ensuring that nothing changes and keeping the population as ignorant to the dangers of passive smoking as possible.