Leading convenience store chain Seven-Eleven Japan Co. has asked franchise outlets in Tokyo to remove ashtray receptacles from the store premises, it was learned Sunday.

Seven-Eleven Japan, a unit of retail giant Seven & i Holdings Co., will decide whether to take the step nationwide after examining the results at the Tokyo outlets, informed sources said.

The move comes as many customers are complaining about passive smoking and an increasing number of restaurants in Japan are introducing smoking bans, according to the sources.

Seven-Eleven Japan has some 2,700 stores in the capital, including about 1,000 with ashtray receptacles standing in front of the shops. The request for removal was made to those 1,000 stores about a month ago, the sources said.

While the request is not binding, since the ashtray receptacles belong to the stores, outlets that agreed have posted written notices to shoppers and will remove them starting on Monday, according to the sources.

No ashtray receptacles are installed at stores directly run by Seven-Eleven Japan in Tokyo.

Seven-Eleven Japan sells tobacco at more than 90 percent of its stores across the country, accounting for about 20 percent of its overall sales.

Many outlets have installed the receptacles to promote sales as some customers buy tobacco and smoke in front of the stores after making purchases. The receptacles are also intended to prevent nearby areas from being littered with cigarette butts.

It remains unclear whether ashtray receptacles will be removed from all Seven-Eleven Japan outlets, pundits said, noting that convenience stores in suburban areas, especially those with parking spaces, are often used as rest areas by customers.

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