Health-certification program tied to bank loans may get stiffer requirements on passive smoking

JIJI

A panel advising the government might propose stiffening requirements for preventing secondhand smoke exposure for companies that want to be certified as health-conscious businesses, it has been learned.

The program, launched in February, has seen 553 companies certified as health-conscious so far. An increasing number are interested in the program because banks have started to make the certification a condition for extending low-interest loans, the sources told Jiji Press on Saturday.

The revisions would require companies to completely ban smoking on the premises or fully separate smoking areas from working areas in order to be certified as health-conscious firms under the state-led program.

If the panel adopts the new standards at a meeting this week, they are expected to be announced early next month.

Some observers hope that revising the standards will speed up the lackluster progress in efforts to prevent passive smoking. The health ministry recently gave up on introducing a bill to strengthen smoking regulations after strong resistance from the Liberal Democratic Party. It now intends to bolster regulatory efforts through an ordinance instead.