Universities divided over whether or not to enforce no-smoking rules


With Japan’s revised health promotion law, which includes enhanced measures against secondhand smoke, set to partially take effect at the beginning of July, universities across the country are divided over rules governing smoking.

The partial implementation prohibits smoking in principle at the premises of public facilities, including schools, nurseries and hospitals.

After the law fully goes into effect next April, smoking will be banned in principle also at business offices and some restaurants, and on passenger planes, buses and in taxis.

Oita Prefecture’s Oita University fully introduced a smoking ban in April 2011. During medical examinations that are held during the spring, each student who smokes holds a one-on-one meeting with a doctor, and nicotine patches or support from nurses is given to them if needed to help them quit smoking.

As a result, the smoking rate among students who attend classes at the university’s campuses in the city of Oita dropped to 3.7 percent in 2019 from 7 percent in 2013.

“The total smoking ban and the student support system have produced certain results,” an official of the university said.

There are 15 smoking areas at Ryukoku University in the city of Kyoto. But they are used to help students quit smoking, with posters displayed inside the areas which say, “Isn’t your smoke hurting your loved ones?”

The revised law allows such smoking areas to be set up as an exception.

The university fully banned smoking in April 2009, but withdrew the measure about 18 months later after receiving a spate of complaints from nearby residents about students of the school smoking on street close to the facility.

The university aims to revive the full-scale smoking ban, but an official said, “It’s difficult to achieve this all at once.” The school hopes to gradually encourage students to stop smoking by, among other measures, distributing nicotine patches free of charge.

Meanwhile, Sophia University in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward plans to keep its only smoking area intact, concerned that closing the area may help increase the number of student who smoke on the street, although smoking on public roads in the ward is banned by a related ordinance of the Chiyoda Municipal Government.

Banning smoking at campuses is indispensable for preventing passive smoking at universities, said Shigeharu Ieda, professor for school health at Chukyo University in Aichi Prefecture.

“Universities should also conduct surveys on smoking rates among students and actively provide students with assistance for quitting smoking and anti-smoking education,” he stressed.