The Abe administration is considering a new law to punish restaurants and other public facilities if they fail to protect people from secondhand smoke.
The law would be part of a broader effort to combat passive smoke in Japan ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
A task force on the issue made up of Cabinet secretaries and officials from the Finance Ministry and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry held its first meeting Monday.
The panel will proceed whether the proposed law should require facilities to become completely smoke-free or to have separate smoking areas.
A 2003 health promotion law requires operators of facilities to make efforts toward combating secondhand smoke but has no penalties for failure to do so.
As it considers which measures to make compulsory, the task force will have to weigh potential resistance from the cigarette and hospitality industries against calls to make all public spaces completely smoke-free.
Recent host cities of the Olympics have taken various steps, including legislation, to tackle passive smoke in line with the International Olympic Committee’s long-term push for tobacco-free games.
According to sources, the task force will debate a range of requirements based on facility type and size, following a review of the current state of facilities around the country.
Public facilities such as hospitals, schools and government buildings could be made completely smoke-free, while restaurants and hotels used by the general public could be required to have separate smoking areas.
According to the World Health Organization, nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke have an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Exposure in childhood can interfere with the development of the respiratory tract.