• Kyodo

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The Yokohama District Court on Tuesday dismissed a damages suit in which a taxi driver was seeking 500,000 yen from his company because his health was damaged by secondhand smoke from his passengers.

However, presiding Judge Tomoko Ozaki of the district court’s Odawara branch urged cab companies to ban smoking in all taxis as soon as possible, saying they are obliged to protect their drivers from health damage caused by secondhand smoke.

According to the ruling, Hideki Ohata, 39, asked the taxi company to assign him to a nonsmoking car in June 2004 but was rejected. Two months later, he was diagnosed with chronic bronchitis caused by passive smoking.

Dismissing his demand for compensation, Ozaki said Ohata “did not report the damage to his health to the company before filing the suit.”

She also said, “Smokers and nonsmokers need to understand each other’s standpoints,” adding taxi companies should designate some cabs as smoking and others as nonsmoking until all cars become nonsmoking.

Ohata plans to appeal the ruling, saying it “underrates the effects of passive smoking.”