• J-Cast


The Kanagawa Prefectural Police on Wednesday sent reports to prosecutors on 33 adults on suspicion of allowing minors to drink and smoke.

The 33 include 23 parents and 10 storeowners and clerks who sold alcohol or cigarettes to minors.

According to the National Police Agency, police sent reports on 1,259 adults to prosecutors on suspicion of failing to stop minors from smoking in 2013, 70 times then number seen 10 years ago. Many of them were parents.

Kanagawa Prefectural Police smoke out violators

The prefectural police’s Juvenile Investigation Division sent reports on 22 guardians and nine store owners and clerks on suspicion of violating the act on the prohibition of smoking by minors. Police also sent reports on a father and two supermarket employees for allegedly violating the minor drinking prohibition act on Wednesday.

This is the first time prefectural police arrested or sent cases to prosecutors on so many in connection with minors drinking or smoking. The police said all of them admitted to the allegations.

However, the overall number of instances of minors drinking or smoking is decreasing. According to the prefectural police, the number of juveniles police held in temporary custody, the step before arresting them or reporting them to prosecutors, was 93,908 in 2012, of whom 31,363 were for smoking and 1,664 were for drinking. The number of those smoking and drinking combined dropped 36.1 percent from the year before.

This crackdown on adults followed the police taking custody of smoking juveniles and subsequent searches of their homes.

Additionally, the number of arrests and reports sent to prosecutors on suspicion of juveniles smoking or drinking fell to 160 in 2013 and 169 in 2012 after a peak of 191 in 2011, according to the Kanagawa Prefectural Police. The police attributed the drop to fewer children overall and the 2008 introduction of the taspo ID, a card available to those over the age of 20 that is needed to purchase cigarettes from vending machines.

Police also note that store clerks being required to check the ages of tobacco and alcohol purchasers contributed to the drop.

However, the number of guardians whose cases were sent to prosecutors jumped eight-fold to 112 in 2013 from 2008. According to a Jan. 22 Yomiuri Shimbun article, parents accounted for 70 percent of arrests or reports sent to prosecutors in connection with minors smoking or drinking in Kanagawa in 2013.

The police called for better awareness of the risks of smoking and drinking by youth as those actions may lessen feelings of guilt and further result in drug abuse and other types of crimes. The police want to warn the public to nip such behavior in the bud.

Adults butt out of kids’ business

The act on prohibition of smoking by minors stipulates guardians will be fined no more than ¥10,000 for not preventing minors from smoking. Minors will not be punished for smoking.

Some of the reasons given by parents for allowing their children to smoke are astonishing.

  • “I gave up because he wouldn’t listen to me.”
  • “I let him smoke at home because it’s better than smoking outside. I don’t want others to see him.”
  • “I regularly bought my child cigarettes because he asked me to.”
  • “I smoke, so I understand my child wants to as well.”

There were some cases in which parents gave a taspo card to their children to let them buy cigarettes. Even though it has become more difficult for minors to buy cigarettes, there is no way of stamping out juvenile smoking if parents enable their children.

Meanwhile, store clerks said checking customers’ ages is inconvenient, according to the police.

Education critic Akira Moriguchi said: “There have always been parents who allowed their children to smoke and there has been no change in the laws. But amid globalization, we Japanese are increasingly pressured to steadfastly follow the rules.”

“People need to recognize that ‘we have to obey the rules we need to obey’ even between parents and children. This time, the Kanagawa Prefectural Police have sent a very clear message, which I consider a remarkable accomplishment,” he said.

This is an abridged translation of a story that was first published on April 17 on J-CAST News, a Tokyo-based news site established in 2006.

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