A young man near JR Kanda Station on Friday became the first person to be fined under a smoking ban on some streets in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.
Ward officials said 19 people had been fined 2,000 yen as of 5 p.m. for smoking or discarding cigarettes in the designated no-smoking areas.
It is the first antismoking law in the nation that carries a penalty, albeit a nonbinding one.
One woman caught by the ward’s antismoking patrols threw 30,000 yen in disgust at the officials’ feet. Four people coughed up the cash on the spot.
The ordinance took effect Oct. 1 and ward officials began patrolling eight designated streets near JR Kanda and JR Akihabara stations, among other locations. Offenders were only issued with warnings during the first month.
On Friday, a management-level official accompanied each six-member patrol to try to avert trouble over the imposition of the fines, ward officials said.
The ward said patrollers have been trained to show their identification, point out the violations to offenders and politely ask them whether they are aware smoking is banned on the streets.
Forty-three people were only issued cautions after pleading ignorance of the new ordinance. Some simply ignored the patrollers.
To prevent scam artists posing as antismoking patrollers demanding payment of fines in cash, offenders will be advised to pay their fines into a designated bank account.
The officials credited the ordinance with a decline in the number of people smoking on the street. The fine is nonbinding, unlike those under the Penal Code.
The reactions of those snared Friday varied.
A young woman who was smoking at an intersection in Kanda responded angrily when ward officials reminded her about the smoking ordinance.
“Will you take the responsibility if I arrive at the office late? You want the money?” she asked, throwing three 10,000 yen notes on the ground before storming away.
The patrol caught up with the woman and returned the money, but she refused to accept a document for her to pay the fine into a bank account.
A man spotted smoking on a street in the Kudan district said before forking over the 2 yen,000: “I knew (the system to fine smokers) would start today, but I thought this area was OK.”
“I was unfortunate,” he added.
Near JR Akihabara Station, patrollers found a 46-year-old company employee dropping cigarette butts on a street. He begged them not to fine him, but the officials told him the law had to be applied impartially.
The ordinance calls for fines of up to 20,000 yen, but the ward will fine offenders 2,000 yen for each offense for the time being.
The ward may also increase the no-smoking zones, which currently account for about 30 percent of the ward, because most people in the area seem to support the new law, the officials said.
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