An increasing number of companies are stepping up efforts to protect employees from the health hazard of cigarettes as the central and local governments study measures to curb the public's exposure to secondhand smoke.

Convenience store chain Lawson Inc. introduced an all-day ban on smoking at its head office and all regional offices in June with an eye toward lowering the ratio of smokers in its entire workforce by around 10 percentage points in fiscal 2018. The smoking rate stood at 33 percent in fiscal 2016.

The ban applies to some 4,500 employees during work hours, including when they are out of the office. Sales clerks at Lawson convenience stores, which are operated under franchising contracts with the retail chain, and workers at Lawson subsidiaries are not subject to the step.