/

Japanese lawmaker apologizes for heckling lung cancer patient during the man’s Diet testimony

Kyodo

A ruling party lawmaker apologized Thursday for heckling a lung cancer patient last week during the man’s parliamentary testimony on an anti-smoking bill.

Yoichi Anami, a Lower House member from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, said the remark because of his feelings “that smokers should not be overly discriminated against.”

Anami said, “Enough already,” when Kazuo Hasegawa, who heads a group of lung cancer patients, was speaking to the Lower House Committee on Health, Labor and Welfare last Friday, the group said.

“I’d like to offer my sincere apology to people concerned if my jeering has given them unpleasant feelings,” Anami, 48, said in a statement posted on his official website, but added he “murmured” the words due to his feelings deriving from what he called the unjust treatment of smokers.

Speaking in the Diet as an unsworn witness, Hasegawa, leader of the Japan Lung Cancer Alliance, said in relation to regulations on outdoor smoking, “I don’t want people to smoke (outdoors) as much as possible. But I also understand smokers’ feeling that it would be hard on them if they have no space to smoke.” That’s when Anami jeered, according to the patients’ group.

“At first, I couldn’t believe it. I realized (Anami) was heckling me after he did it more than once. I’m so sad,” Hasegawa said.

A third-term Lower House member, Anami also serves as a board member with family restaurant chain Joyfull.

On Tuesday, the Lower House cleared the bill to revise the Health Promotion Law aimed at banning indoor smoking at schools, hospitals and public institutions, with violations resulting in fines.

But the controversial bill was watered down from its original form and allows some eateries to be given an exemption on indoor smoking restrictions following opposition from the LDP. Many of the party’s members have ties with the tobacco and restaurant industries.