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A group of 26 taxi drivers and users filed a lawsuit Thursday at the Tokyo District Court, demanding 13.6 million yen in damages from the state over its alleged failure to actively curb smoking inside cabs.

According to the lawsuit, the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry has not actively addressed the issue of smoking inside taxis, despite the fact that the dangers of passive smoking are greater in an enclosed space like a car. At present, smoking is permitted in about 99 percent of taxis nationwide.

In 2000, the then Transport Ministry eased regulations to make it possible for taxi operators to introduce nonsmoking cabs. And in a law aimed at boosting health measures that was enacted in May 2003, taxis appear on a list of places where efforts should be made to curb passive smoking.

The plaintiffs argue, however, that as long as the matter is left up to the taxi operators, the government is effectively supporting smoking in cabs.

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