Two doctors on Wednesday raised concerns about the government’s latest measures on secondhand smoke, saying they could lead to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo being held in an “extremely smoky environment.”
The criticism comes a day after the government announced the thrust of planned revisions to a law on secondhand smoke, saying smoking would continue to be permitted in small bars and restaurants that put up warning signs for potential customers.
The health ministry gave no specifics, but major newspapers reported it is contemplating allowing smoking in establishments with floor space of 150 square meters (1,615 square feet) or less.
That would be far more accommodating to smokers than the ministry’s plan from last March that limited smoking to bars and other liquor-serving spots with a floor space of 30 square meters (323 square feet) or less.
“If establishments with a floor space of 150 square meters or less are exempt from the smoking ban, about 90 percent of bars will escape the restrictions,” said Yumiko Mochizuki, a doctor and member of the Japan Cancer Society. “If things stay this way, the Olympic Games in 2020 will be held in an extremely smoky environment.”
Health ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.
Japan ranks near the bottom globally in anti-smoking measures, going by the types of public spaces that are entirely smoke-free, says the World Health Organization, which has teamed with global Olympics officials to ensure smoke-free venues.
Ahead of the 2020 Games, the International Olympics Committee is among those pressuring Tokyo to follow Rio de Janeiro and other recent hosts in banning smoking in all public areas.
Asked how smoking restrictions at the 2020 Olympics would compare with previous Olympics, Toshiharu Furukawa, a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker who is a medical doctor, said, “It would look considerably less favorable.”
In contrast, Tomoyuki Utsuno, an official of an industry grouping of about 10,000 small bar and restaurant operators in Tokyo, welcomed the latest development.
“This is one step forward,” Utsuno said. “Our activities, such as collecting signatures, are bearing fruit,” he added, referring to those who oppose tough measures against smoking.
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