Let's discuss smoking regulations in Japan

This week’s featured article


The government has drafted legislation for regulating passive smoking that will ban smoking in almost all public spaces, but left undecided whether small restaurants should be an exception to the rule, sources close to the matter said Aug. 13.

The government had originally planned to submit a relevant bill to revise the Health Promotion Law to the previous ordinary Diet session that ended in June but failed to do so due to discord between the health ministry and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party over how strictly an indoor smoking ban should be applied to restaurants.

The government and the LDP have come under heavy pressure from the tobacco and restaurant industries, which have expressed reservations about stronger anti-smoking measures.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has insisted that indoor smoking at restaurants should basically be banned at all restaurants, excluding small bars and other establishments with a floor space of up to 30 square meters, while the LDP preferred looser regulation.

The LDP, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, supports legislation that will allow indoor smoking at restaurants with a floor space of up to 150 square meters as long as they put up a sign that smoking is allowed inside the restaurants or that smoking is allowed only in a separate area within the establishments.

The recently compiled draft bill to revise the law does not stipulate the size of restaurants within which indoor smoking will be allowed as an exception, as the government plans to stipulate the matter in a future government ordinance.

The envisioned revision to the Health Promotion Law is expected to take effect within two years after promulgation, and the government intends to settle the matter by then.

It is seeking to introduce such anti-passive smoking legislation before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics as the International Olympic Committee and the World Health Organization (WHO) are seeking a smoking-free Olympic Games.

Recent host countries of the Olympics have restricted indoor smoking at restaurants and other public spaces under law or ordinance that comes with a penalty for those who break it.

WHO regards Japan’s measures against passive smoking as some of the worst in the world.

First published in The Japan Times on August 14.

Warm up

One-minute chat about restaurants.


Collect words related to smoking, e.g., tobacco, health risks, nicotine.

New words

1) discord: disagreement, e.g., “There seems to be a lot of discord in their marriage.”

2) reservation: unstated doubt, e.g., “She has reservations about traveling abroad.”

3) promulgation: putting into effect, e.g., “The Cabinet announced the promulgation of new regulations.”

Guess the headline

Anti-s_ _ _ _ _ _ bill leaves details of size of

r_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _s exempted from ban undecided


1) What is the health ministry’s claim for regulating smoking?

2) Why did the submission of the bill fail?

3) How is the situation for smokers in other countries?

Let’s discuss the article

1) How do you feel about people smoking inside restaurants?

2) Where do you think is a good place to smoke?

3) What do you think is the best way to deal with indoor smoking?





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