Friday marked two years since Chiyoda Ward became the nation’s first municipality to enforce a “living environment ordinance” aimed primarily at prohibiting smokers from lighting up in public and throwing cigarette butts on the streets.
The ward office’s hardline policy has sharply reduced cases of smoking and littering and has led other municipalities, including Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward and the Hiroshima and Fukuoka municipalities, to put similar ordinances into effect.
Chiyoda Ward collects a fine of 2,000 yen from each person found to have violated the ordinance in locations designated as no smoking areas, including the vicinities of JR Tokyo, Akihabara and Ochanomizu stations.
The number of violations totaled about 14,000 as of the end of August.
The ward’s administrative territory covers locations in the center of the capital, including the Marunouchi and Otemachi districts. These areas are central to the nation’s economy and feature the head offices of big corporations and financial institutions.
The Imperial Palace is also located within the ward.
Officials inspect four selected spots along Akihabara’s main street once a week to count the cigarettes that have been discarded.
They counted 995 butts immediately before the ordinance went into effect two years ago, but learned recently that the number had plunged to a little more than a dozen.
Japan Tobacco Inc. has established a smoking room — dubbed Smokers Style Akihabara Store — on the first floor of a building in the Akihabara district.
The room, equipped with smoke-separating equipment, is often filled with salaried workers. A Japan Tobacco public relations official said the company wants to establish coexistence between smokers and nonsmokers.
Kentaro Ogawa, an official of Chiyoda Ward’s living environment division, said: “We knew it would be a lot better if there were no punitive measures. But fining violators was our last resort.”
In the past, the municipality placed ashtrays on the street and distributed portable ashtrays among smokers — but to no avail, he said.
Although some people initially voiced doubt over the introduction of fines, officials said supporters of the ordinance far outnumbered opponents.
The ward received comments from residents who said the town as a whole has become clean because the ordinance also prohibits the littering of empty cans and leaving bicycles in unauthorized places.
Chiyoda Ward’s Ogawa said the punitive provision was not the only reason for the success of the ordinance.
He noted that the ward’s population during the daytime totals 1 million, with company employees commuting from other areas, while the population at night, including those who live in the area, numbers 40,000.
He said the ward called on residents, corporations and schools to join street-cleaning initiatives and organize antismoking patrols in neighborhoods.
These actions, he said, led the whole town to get involved against smoking and sparked local awareness of the importance of keeping neighborhoods clean.
Ward Mayor Masami Ishikawa and senior officials still appear on the streets almost two years after the introduction of the ordinance, passing out packets of tissue paper to pedestrians in an effort to educate the general public about the smoking ban.